Institut de Biologie StructuraleGrenoble / France

’Green’ chemistry and biofuels : Observing a photoenzyme at work

An international consortium* of scientists, including researchers from the IBS/DYNAMOP and IBS/SYN groups, has deciphered the mechanism and dynamics of the fatty acid photodecarboxylase (FAP) enzyme, a discovery published in Science on 08/04/2021. This photoenzyme is naturally present in many microscopic algae and uses light energy to catalyse the generation of hydrocarbons from fatty acids.
To elucidate the mechanism of this unique enzyme, the research teams have combined multi-faceted experimental and theoretical approaches comprising site-directed mutagenesis, time-resolved vibrational and electronic optical spectroscopies or cryotrapping of reaction intermediates, static and kinetic crystallography at synchrotrons and an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) and quantum chemical calculations. The elucidation of the FAP catalytic mechanism and the identification of reaction intermediates and structural elements indispensable to its activity constitute a key basis for the optimization of the enzyme for the production of ‘green’ hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals that can be easily modulated by light. Press release.

* In France, this study mobilized researchers from the Institut de Biosciences et Biotechnologies Aix-Marseille in Cadarache, the Institut de Biologie Intégrative de la Cellule in Gif-sur-Yvette, the Institut Polytechnique de Paris in Palaiseau, the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, the Universities of Lille and Rennes, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and the Institut Laue-Langevin. Abroad, researchers from the Max-Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Moscow State University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford are involved.

Mechanism and dynamics of fatty acid photodecarboxylase. Sorigué D, Hadjidemetriou K, Blangy S, Gotthard G, Bonvalet A, Coquelle N, Samire P, Aleksandrov A, Antonucci L, Benachir A, Boutet S, Byrdin M, Cammarata M, Carbajo S, Cuiné S, Doak RB, Foucar L, Gorel A, Grünbein M, Hartmann E, Hienerwadel R, Hilpert M, Kloos M, Lane TJ, Légeret B, Legrand P, Li-Beisson Y, Moulin S, Nurizzo D, Peltier G, Schirò G, Shoeman RL, Sliwa M, Solinas X, Zhuang B, Barends TRM, Colletier J-P, Joffre M, Royant A, Berthomieu C, Weik M, Domratcheva T, Brettel K, Vos MH, Schlichting I, Arnoux P, Müller P, Beisson F. Science 2021 ; 372:eabd5687 (

IBS Contact : Martin Weik