Dept. of Photochemistry & Molecular Science
Function and Control of the Bidirectional Hydrogenase
A fundamental and principal difficulty of the future energy supply is that the formation of fossil fuels is much slower than the rate of their exploitation. Therefore, the reserves are shrinking parallel with an increasing worldwide energy demand. Among the alternative energy carriers, hydrogen is preferred because it is easy to transport and store and it burns to environmentally friendly water vapour when utilized. Hydrogen can be produced in biological systems and cyanobacteria are among the best candidates to produce it. Much research has been carried out within this field, but our understanding of the molecular details is just emerging.
Much research work has been carried out in nitrogen-fixing, filamentous heterocystous cyanobacteria (specially focusing on the uptake hydrogenase), in order to create a high hydrogen producer, but little is known in terms of the bi-directional hydrogenase. In this project, we are studying the H2 metabolism in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, a unicellular non-nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium that only possesses a bi-directional hydrogenase. Right now, we are focusing on how this enzyme is controlled on the transcription level and searching environmental conditions that produce a change in its activity. Hopefully, these data will help us to understand the physiological role of the enzyme, something that remains unclear.
By genetic modifications we plan to engineer an attractive model system for photosynthetic biohydrogen production.