Mining bacteria

The compound 10,13-epoxy-11-methyl-octadecadienoate, a 19-carbon furan-containing fatty acid (19Fu-FA), has many potential uses not least as a bio alternative to chemicals currently derived from fossil fuels. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has identified the genes in Rhodobacter sphaeroides responsible for its biosynthesis. "We've identified previously uncharacterized genes in a bacterium that are also present in the genomes of many other bacteria," says Tim Donohue. "So, we are now in the exciting position to mine these other bacterial genomes to produce large quantities of fatty acids for further testing and eventual use in many industries, including the chemical and fuel industries."