The life-like microbes in wine could be a key ingredient for making new wine, but their evolutionary history has been unclear.
A new study led by researchers from the University of Bristol, the University College London, and the University and College London have shown that they could help solve the problem.
The team first identified the microbial species in a batch of wine samples from the British Department of Agriculture’s wine processing plant, which was later analyzed in a series of genetic sequencing experiments.
These data revealed that the microbes were able to break down the carbon dioxide from grapes to produce sugars in a process known as CO 2 fixation.
The researchers then took a closer look at a second batch of wines produced at the plant.
This new data showed that the microbe had been able to convert carbon dioxide into sugars using a similar process, albeit with a different chemical composition.
In other words, the bacteria had been exploiting the carbonic acid in grapes, and were able, in this case, to produce a different form of sugar.
The research, published in Science, describes the microbes as being able to produce two different forms of sugar, one with an ester that contains the sugar’s natural carbon content and the other with a sugar with the same carbon content as the carbon that would have formed the ester.
If the microbes could be able to use this carbonic-acid conversion to produce wine in a way that was compatible with its structure, this could provide a means of producing carbon-free wine, which the team believes could be useful for the production of biofuels and food.
In addition to using this new information, the researchers have also shown that the bacteria can be used to create wine that is much more attractive to the palate than its predecessor.
The new species, called H. aureus, contains more than 20 enzymes that make sugar, and they can be able also to convert some of these sugars into carbon dioxide.
These sugars can be further used to make the new wine with higher alcohol levels.
In this case the new species is able to make a wine with a higher alcohol content than its ancestor, but this wine is also much less likely to be eaten as a beverage.
The researchers also used this technique to identify the genes involved in the metabolism of the CO 2 .
The enzymes they were able at the end of the process to identify are called CCAAs and can be found in some of the most widely used enzymes found in the human body, such as the beta-glucan transporter and the glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase.
They are also involved in making certain proteins and enzymes that help cells metabolise sugars.
“We are now in the process of looking at how the CO2 fixation process is affected by temperature and humidity, and we are also looking at the impact of temperature on how these enzymes are activated,” said Prof. Tom MacFarlane, who led the research.
“[The] enzymes we identified are important because they are involved in converting the carbon into sugars, but we are still learning about what is happening at this stage.”
As well as being useful for biofuel production, the findings also have implications for wine production, which is often limited to small-scale vineyards.
For this reason, the team believe that the CO-2 fixation method could be applied to small commercial wine production.
To produce this wine, the new organisms would have to consume a certain amount of carbon dioxide each day.
However, if these microbes were capable of producing a high-alcohol, bio-available wine at the same time, then this could allow for a much more accessible alternative to alcohol.
“We want to make this technology useful for commercial wine producers and wine lovers alike, and in the long term, we also want to be able for them to use the microbes to produce other products such as biofuens and food,” said Dr. Tom Rizzo, who co-authored the paper.
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