Surprising Enzyme

Surprising Enzyme

Author: David Bradley

The vanadium, rather than molybdenum, form of nitrogenase is less well known but could hold the key to producing ethylene, ethane and propane, and other organic compounds from a surprising raw material, carbon monoxide. CO is known to be an inhibitor of nitrogen fixation by the molybdenum enzyme but now a chance discovery by US chemists could lead to an alternative method of producing useful organic compounds without relying on petrochemical sources. Understanding the enzyme’s active center, and perhaps tweaking its chemistry, could lead to engineered catalysts for making longer carbon chains.

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