Environmental biotechnology articles within Nature Communications

Featured

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Anaerobic digesters play an important role in biodegradation. In the MiDAS 5 project, the authors use global 16S rRNA sequencing to expand the microbial reference database, improving taxonomic classification and revealing how environmental factors and geography shape microbial communities in anaerobic digesters.

    • Morten Kam Dahl Dueholm
    • , Kasper Skytte Andersen
    •  & Per Halkjær Nielsen
  • Perspective
    | Open Access

    The way we generate and treat plastic waste is a key consideration in the transition from a take-make-waste model to a truly circular economy. Here, authors discuss their views on how biotechnology could contribute to solving the plastic problem, and the barriers we need to overcome to make such approaches a reality.

    • Amelia R. Bergeson
    • , Ashli J. Silvera
    •  & Hal S. Alper
  • Perspective
    | Open Access

    Microbial degradation and biosynthesis of fluorinated compounds is a field of increasing importance, but is hampered by the significant toxicity of fluoride. Here authors discuss emerging ideas on microbial defluorination/fluorination and fluoride resistance mechanisms, providing guidance on how this knowledge can guide future bioengineering approaches.

    • Randy B. Stockbridge
    •  & Lawrence P. Wackett
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Biotic-abiotic photosynthetic systems hold great promise to innovate solar-driven chemical transformation. Here, the authors construct a biotic-abiotic hybrid system composed of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and biogenic Se0 nanoparticles for photothermal Cu2-xSe biomineralization and then for seawater desalination.

    • Sheng-Lan Gong
    • , YangChao Tian
    •  & Li-Jiao Tian
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Pesticides safeguard crops against pest infestations and mitigate associated risks. In this work, the authors develop a pesticide targeting AlstR-C of T.pityocampa pests, showing promising results without harming other insects, and advancing the development of GPCR-targeted pesticides for insect control.

    • Kübra Kahveci
    • , Mustafa Barbaros Düzgün
    •  & Necla Birgul Iyison
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The soil microbiome communicates with plant roots using a chemical language. Here, using p-coumaroyl-homoserine lactone as the synthetic communication signal, the authors demonstrate programmable microbe-to-plant communication from the sender in the soil bacteria to a receiver in the plant.

    • Alice Boo
    • , Tyler Toth
    •  & Christopher A. Voigt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Conventional blue denim dyeing has both environmental and health-related consequences. Here, Bidart et al. use enzyme engineering to develop a viable method for the bulk production of indican and demonstrate dying processes which could significantly reduce the negative consequences of this billion-dollar industry.

    • Gonzalo Nahuel Bidart
    • , David Teze
    •  & Ditte Hededam Welner
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Weak adhesion is a common hindrance to efficient utilization of pesticides in agricultural applications. Here, authors demonstrate leaf-adhesive tebuconazole nanopesticides which can be water-dispersed via flash nanoprecipitation using temperature-responsive copolymers PDMAEMA-b-PCL as the carrier.

    • Jie Tang
    • , Xiaojing Tong
    •  & Yisheng Xu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Engineered living materials (ELMs) are emerging as a field at the intersection of materials science and synthetic biology. Here, the authors describe a photosynthetic ELM composed of genetically engineered cyanobacteria in a hydrogel matrix, capable of bioremediation and inducible cell death.

    • Debika Datta
    • , Elliot L. Weiss
    •  & Jonathan K. Pokorski
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The degradation of PET using PETase enzymes has great potential but can face problems with incomplete degradation. Here, the authors identified two BHETases from the environment and engineered them to improve their hydrolysis efficiency for applications in dual-enzyme PET recycling and tandem chemical-enzymatic PET upcycling systems.

    • Anni Li
    • , Yijie Sheng
    •  & He Huang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Ethylene glycol is an attractive two-carbon alcohol substrate for bioproduction as it can be derived from CO2 or syngas. Here, the authors design a five-step synthetic metabolic pathway in E. coli to enable the carbon-conserving biosynthesis of the platform chemical 2,4-dihydroxybutyric acid from ethylene glycol.

    • Cláudio J. R. Frazão
    • , Nils Wagner
    •  & Thomas Walther
  • Article
    | Open Access

    CRISPR gene drives are genetic elements capable of quickly spreading through populations and they offer promising solutions for curbing the spread of vector-borne diseases and controlling crop pest and invasive species populations. Here the authors present a method for overcoming resistance alleles “double-tap,” that encodes additional gRNAs in the gene drive that target the most common generated resistance alleles.

    • Alena L. Bishop
    • , Víctor López Del Amo
    •  & Valentino M. Gantz
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The lack of innovative standards for biosafety in synthetic biology is an unresolved policy gap that limits many potential applications in synthetic biology. We argue that a massive support for standardization in biosafety is required for synthetic biology to flourish.

    • Lei Pei
    • , Michele Garfinkel
    •  & Markus Schmidt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Microbial communities are responsible for biological wastewater treatment. Here, Dueholm et al. generate more than 5 million high-quality, full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences from wastewater treatment plants across the world to construct a database with a comprehensive taxonomy, providing insights into diversity and function of these microbial communities.

    • Morten Kam Dahl Dueholm
    • , Marta Nierychlo
    •  & Per Halkjær Nielsen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Biocontainment is a key to developing safe genetically-engineered microbes (GEMs). Here the authors demonstrate genetically stable CRISPR-based kill switches that control GEMs’ viability in animal hosts, enabling their safe biomedical applications.

    • Austin G. Rottinghaus
    • , Aura Ferreiro
    •  & Tae Seok Moon
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Thioglycoligases have proved useful for bonding carbohydrates to non-sugar acceptors, however, the scope of these biocatalysts is usually limited. Here, the authors engineer a xylosidase into a thioglycoligase with the ability to form O-, N-, S- and Se- glycosides together with sugar esters and phosphoesters.

    • Manuel Nieto-Domínguez
    • , Beatriz Fernández de Toro
    •  & María Jesús Martínez
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Interactions between electroactive bacteria and metal oxides are used for bioremediation. Here, the authors report on the application of Fe(III)-containing metal organic frameworks as substrates for bacterial growth which allow for remediation of lethal levels of chromium with high efficacy over several cycles.

    • Sarah K. Springthorpe
    • , Christopher M. Dundas
    •  & Benjamin K. Keitz
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Existing heavy metal bioremediation systems are mainly based on plants, which require long growing time in specific conditions. Here, the authors mimic the characteristics of plant hyperaccumulators to engineer more tractable baker’s yeast and achieve 10–100-fold higher accumulation of chromium, arsenic, or cadmium.

    • George L. Sun
    • , Erin. E. Reynolds
    •  & Angela M. Belcher
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Marine woodborers can digest woody biomass without the help of gut microbiota but the mechanism has remained unclear. Here, the authors provide evidence that the woodborer’s respiratory protein hemocyanin plays a central role in wood digestion and may offer a route toward biorefining of woody plant biomass.

    • Katrin Besser
    • , Graham P. Malyon
    •  & Simon J. McQueen-Mason
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is a widely used plastic and its accumulation in the environment has become global problem. Here the authors report the crystal structure of a Ideonella sakaiensis PET-degrading enzyme and propose a molecular mechanism for PET degradation.

    • Seongjoon Joo
    • , In Jin Cho
    •  & Kyung-Jin Kim
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Cyanobacteria can be exploited to convert light energy into electrical current, however utilising them efficiently for power generation is a challenge. Here, the authors use a simple commercial inkjet printer to fabricate a thin-film paper-based biophotovoltaic cell capable of driving low-power devices.

    • Marin Sawa
    • , Andrea Fantuzzi
    •  & Peter J. Nixon
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Microbial fuel cells generate electricity from a variety of sources, however from methane only negligible electrical power has been reported so far. Here the authors convert methane into electricity using a synthetic consortium consisting of an engineered archaeal strain, microorganisms from methane-acclimated sludge, andGeobacter sulfurreducens.

    • Michael J. McAnulty
    • , Venkata G. Poosarla
    •  & Thomas K. Wood
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Microbial fermentation yield is limited by CO2 loss in glycolysis. Here, the authors engineered Clostridium ljungdahlii for the anaerobic, non-photosynthetic mixotrophy production of acetone, increasing carbon product yield while reducing CO2emissions from a biogenic feedstock fermentation.

    • Shawn W. Jones
    • , Alan G. Fast
    •  & Bryan P. Tracy