The role of bacteria in the production of a greenhouse gas: how it impacts climate change

The role of bacteria in the production of a greenhouse gas: how it impacts climate change
The role of bacteria in the production of a greenhouse gas: how it impacts climate change

The study suggests that the evolution of nitrate-respiring enzymes from oxygen reductases occurred approximately two billion years ago, underscoring the adaptation of microorganisms to changing environmental conditions (Getty)

The United Nations Organization (UN) indicates that the climate change “refers to long-term changes in temperatures and weather patterns.” Along these lines, the entity states that the burning of fossil fuels “generates Emissions of greenhouse gases that act like a blanket that surrounds the Earth, trapping the hot of the sun and raising the temperatures”.

In addition to carbon dioxide and methane, one of the greenhouse gases that worries experts is nitrous oxide. According to the UN, “when reactive nitrogen species are exposed to soil, such as in fertilizers, it causes microbial reactions that release this gas, which is 300 times more powerful to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide”.

In this context, a study carried out by researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) stated that a new class of enzyme allows bacteria breathe nitrate in low oxygen conditions. This process, according to the authors, produces nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide is produced during denitrification, a process in which bacteria break down nitrate in environments with low oxygen levels. An example? Wetlands /EFE/ Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda/ARCHIVE

According to the authors, the production of nitrous oxide in this case occurs during denitrification. This dynamic, through which bacteria break down the nitrate present in fertilizers, is more common in environments where oxygen levels are scarce, such as wetlands, alpine soils and lakes.

In this way, the discovery -published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences- could have significant implications for the understanding and addressing phenomena associated with climate change. Because? According to experts, the analysis of new enzymes and their N₂O production may be crucial to developing effective strategies against climate change.

“Nitrous oxide is a much more difficult greenhouse gas to monitor than carbon dioxide, but with this research we now know that There are many more sources that produce nitrous oxide than previously thought“, said Woody Fischerprofessor of geobiology and principal investigator of the study.

“Understanding where and when this gas is released into the atmosphere can help us make smarter decisions. “There is a not-too-distant future in which a farmer will have information about the microbial communities present in his soil, allowing him to make informed decisions about how and when to use fertilizers for landscape health,” Fischer added.

The research proposes that information about microbial communities in soils can help farmers make informed decisions about fertilizer use (Getty)

The team of experts examined the genomic sequences of tens of thousands of different microbial species in various environments on Earth. Most cells in the biosphere use specific proteins called reductases to breathe oxygen, they said. However, the authors argued that there is a wide range of reductases that had evolved proteins for respiration. nitric oxide (NO)something that would consequently produce nitrous oxide.

The research suggested that better management of fertilizers in agriculture could significantly reduce nitrous oxide emissions. This knowledge could be key to developing new technologies and sustainable agricultural practices, according to the study.

The experts stressed that The implementation of advanced monitoring and genomic analysis techniques will allow the sources of nitrous oxide to be identified and quantified with greater precision, facilitating the adoption of more effective measures for its control.

Better fertilizer management could significantly reduce nitrous oxide emissions, the study authors suggest (Illustrative Image Infobae)

In the publication, the specialists developed: “Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas whose production is catalyzed by nitric oxide reductase (NOR), members of the heme-copper oxidoreductase (HCO) superfamily of enzymes. “We identified several previously uncharacterized HCO families, four of which (eNOR, sNOR, gNOR, and nNOR) appear to perform nitric oxide (NO) reduction.”

For dimensionality: according to the NIH, reduction has to do with the oxidation-reduction process, a “chemical reaction that occurs between an oxidizing substance and a reducing substance. During the reaction, the oxidizing substance loses electrons and the reducing substance gains electrons. For example, rust forms when there is an oxidation-reduction reaction between the oxygen contained in water or moist air (an oxidizing substance) and iron (a reducing substance).”

All in all, the authors of the study in question wrote: “These families have novel active site structures and several have conserved proton channels, suggesting that they could couple NO reduction to energy conservation. We isolate and biochemically characterize a member of the eNOR family of the bacteria Rhodothermus marinus and we discovered that it reduces NO.”

And they expanded: “We use environmental sequence data to find enzymes that produce nitrous oxide from NO and we validate our hypothesis with experiments. “These new enzymes are likely to contribute to global nitrous oxide fluxes and expand the breadth of the nitrogen cycle.”

Research suggests that new enzymes discovered in the bacterium Rhodothermus marinus perform nitric oxide (NO) reduction, contributing to global nitrous oxide fluxes and expanding understanding of the nitrogen cycle on Earth (Getty)

This study “flips the script,” according to Fischer. “It shows that the proteins that allow the nitrate respiration In fact evolved from those that breathe oxygen, approximately two billion years ago,” he said. The work stated that the nitrate respiration and the denitrification are evolutionarily more recent processes than was thought. The evolution of these enzymes from oxygen reductases involves significant adaptation to Earth’s changing environmental conditions.

Fischer postulated: “We have overlooked large regions of the biosphere where nitrous oxide was produced because these proteins were not discovered. Now, we can predict with much more precision, through genomic sequence information, What organisms in what environments produce nitrous oxide. “There are many more than we thought.”

Another of the experts in charge of the work, James Hemp, noted: “Our work has dramatically increased the biochemical diversity of one of the most studied enzyme families in microbiology. “This should serve as a warning that automated metabolic analysis without experimental verification may lead to incorrect conclusions of microbial and community functions.”

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