French team finds light-driven algal enzyme that converts fatty acids to hydrocarbons

By mmillikin A team of researchers in France has discovered an algal photoenzyme that catalyzes the decarboxylation of free fatty acids to n-alkanes or -alkenes in response to blue light. In a paper in the journal Science, the researchers suggest that the photoenzyme, which they named fatty acid photodecarboxylase, may be useful in light-driven, bio-based production of hydrocarbons.

Many organisms—photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic—use light for processes such as growth, development, and metabolism. In most cases, the researchers note, the effects of light on cell physiology are mediated by photoactive proteins, which include light-sensitive ion channels and pumps, photoreceptors, photosynthetic antenna proteins, and light-dependent enzymes.

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