Science News 06/06/2011

Also bacteria like coffee

The new bacterium, named Pseudomonas putida, uses digestive enzymes to break down the caffeine

A new caffeine-degrading bacterium, Pseudomonas putida CBB5, breaks caffeine down into carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Caffeine itself is composed of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, all of which are necessary for bacterial cell growth. Within the caffeine molecule are three structures, known as methyl groups, composed of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogens atoms. This bacterium is able to effectively remove these methyl groups (a process known as N-demethylization) and essentially live on caffeine.

A tema from Iowa University have identified the three enzymes responsible for the N-demethylization and the genes that code for these enzymes. Further testing showed that the compounds formed during break down of caffeine are natural building blocks for drugs used to treat asthma, improve blood flow and stabilize heart arrhythmias.

di Graziano Alderighi