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Towards the optimization of hydrogen production by nitrogenase

Objective

In nature, molecular hydrogen is produced by the hydrogenase and the nitrogenase enzymes. Nitrogenase reduces dinitrogen to ammonia and, in this process, it evolves hydrogen. Nitrogenase and hydrogenase are oxygen-sensitive enzymes. We chose to optimize a hydrogen production system based on nitrogenase for four reasons: some organisms carrying nitrogenase simultaneously perform photosynthesis and hydrogen evolution by nitrogenase (direct biophotolysis), thus harvesting solar energy and autonomously converting it into chemical energy in a continuous process; cellular mechanisms exist to protect nitrogenase from oxygen but do not appear to exist for hydrogenase; because nitrogenase couples ATP hydrolysis to hydrogen evolution, this enzyme is able to generate hydrogen against a substantial gas pressure; finally, the biochemistry of the nitrogenase system is well known. The objective of our proposal is to provide new eco-efficient strategies for the biological production of hydrogen. Energy research is a priority theme under the Seventh Research Framework (FP7) cooperation program. The objective of energy research under FP7 is to adapt the current energy system into a more sustainable, competitive and secure one, with emphasis and support given to hydrogen research and renewable fuel production. Our proposal has three major components: (i) in vitro evolution of nitrogenase, in which we generate new nitrogenase variants by metagenomic gene shuffling and random mutagenesis, and select those with increased hydrogen production activity; (ii) the development of a genetic system to select for hydrogen overproducers; and (iii) a biochemical element designed to understand the biochemical requisites for efficient hydrogen production by the molybdenum nitrogenase as a basis for its re-engineering.

Field of science

  • /engineering and technology/environmental engineering/energy and fuels/fossil energy/gas
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/inorganic compounds
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biochemistry
  • /engineering and technology/environmental engineering/energy and fuels/renewable energy/solar energy
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biochemistry/biomolecules/proteins/enzymes

Call for proposal

ERC-2007-StG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

UNIVERSIDAD POLITECNICA DE MADRID
Address
Calle Ramiro De Maeztu 7 Edificio Rectorado
28040 Madrid
Spain
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 111 390,35
Principal investigator
Luis Manuel Rubio Herrero (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Gonzalo Leon (Prof.)

Beneficiaries (2)

UNIVERSIDAD POLITECNICA DE MADRID
Spain
EU contribution
€ 1 111 390,35
Address
Calle Ramiro De Maeztu 7 Edificio Rectorado
28040 Madrid
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Luis Manuel Rubio Herrero (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Gonzalo Leon (Prof.)
Fundacion IMDEA Energia

Participation ended

Spain
EU contribution
€ 856 609,65
Address
Avenida Ramon De La Sagra 3
28935 Mostoles Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Marta Jiménez (Prof.)