BSCI 223 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Microbiology, Science Daily, Bioaccumulation
SchoolUniversity of Maryland
DepartmentBiological Sciences Program
Course CodeBSCI 223
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Genetically Modified E. Coli- a Potential Benefactor
Based on E. coli’s success rate of taking in a gene and performing a new function of
which it was incapable of doing before the recombination, the baroness should be advised to
further the project. According to several experiments and sources, benefits outweigh the risks
pertaining to the impact of genetically modified E. coli and the environment: From producing
alternative fuel sources to reducing and eliminating harmful products released into air, the
bacteria poses as an appropriate and safe host cell. While aiding in environmentally friendly
regulation, E. coli only helps with this goal- it has relatively no risks associated with it.
Gasoline relies on ethanol as a key ingredient to avoid being so environmentally
contaminating, however with limited resources, the component may become very strictly
available. Finding new sources is a good option. E. coli’s ability to turn seaweed into ethanol is a
breakthrough in engineered biofuel and will eventually reduce, and possibly eliminate
greenhouse gas emissions. Since seaweed does not require fertilizer to grow, this eliminates the
risks that spreading fertilizer would potentially have. E. coli’s ability to break down sugars and
turn it into biofuel indirectly reduces environmental contaminants. [Niemeyer] On the other
hand, if an alternative source for ethanol is not a viable option, then a whole new line of fuel can
be produced. Bio fuel made from genetically modified E. coli that could eventually address
issues of climate change and energy needs. It is uncommon for organisms to produce highly
branched alcohols other than ethanol (for gasoline) and for E. coli to do so is even more
surprising because it is known to be alcohol intolerant [science daily] – however, E. coli proved
New discoveries found that E. coli is capable of up-taking mercury in the atmosphere by
adding to it metal binding properties. Mercury is highly toxic in the environment. Solutions for
ridding of this metal have been previously inefficient: Mercury can be adsorbed to reduce its
levels by sequestration by cell-surface moieties [Bae]. However, a promising alternative of
overexpression of metal-binding proteins on bacterial cell surfaces, such as E. coli- which was
used in this experiment, proved to enhance the binding efficiency of mercury for its removal.
With this, E. coli had no negative effects on the environment, making it the best choice of
bacteria for this mechanism. In addition, its resistance to EDTA and NaCl make it a good
candidate to remove mercury in contaminated wastewaters without dying or lysing [Bae]. With
these characteristics in mind, E. coli can survive in an animal’s rumen such as the mentioned
cow- even/especially if the cow drinks contaminated water.
Directly relating to the Kenmore project, E. coli is an accessory to healthy methane
reduction in ruminant animals. NO3 reduces methanogenesis in the rumen, but produces toxic
NO2 as a by-product. E. coli, however, is able to reduce NO2 to a harmless substance [Mwenya].
NrF, a nitrate-reductase regulatory protein, can be inserted in the bacteria and reduce toxic NO to
ammonia [Spiro]. By administering both NO3 and E. coli, methane reduction is achieved in the
environment while also avoiding putting the animal at risk.
With all of these distinct properties harvested in E. coli through genetic engineering, it
can be concluded that the decision to modify E. coli for methane reduction would have a more
benefactor role than one at risk. There were no risks to the above-mentioned experiments and all
results indicated a leap in healthy environment change. Therefore, the baroness should continue
with the project because more good than harm can be done.
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