HOUGHTON,MI -- Researchers at Michigan Technological University are studying an enzyme that is being used to help clean up the environment and has great potential to be part of the solution to the global problem of excess nitrate and related nitrogen nutrients in water sources.
The enzyme--nitrate reductase--comes from plants where it plays a central role in nitrate acquisition and is essential for feeding people and animals.
Dr. Wilbur H. Campbell, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of Michigan Tech's Phytotechnology Research Center, heads a team of undergraduate and graduate students and a post-doctoral fellow whose aim is to determine the structure and function of nitrate reductase. They want to create a 3-D model of the enzyme to gain understanding of how it works.
Campbell's research is currently being funded by a 3 year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. But in fact, he has been doing basic research on nitrate reductase for more than 20 years with grants from NSF, the US Dept of Agriculture and the State of Michigan's Research Excellence Fund.
Nitrate reductase is in virtually every plant on earth and is a very efficient enzyme with an important job in nitrogen metabolism in plants, according to Campbell. The problem is--plants don't need much nitrate reductase to get their job done and so nature doesn't provide enough of the enzyme for scientists to do the studies they need for determining just how the enzyme functions and what its full potential may be.
Interestingly, nitrate reductase has a role in environmental
biotechnology where it is being used as a nitrate testing method. This new
commercial method for testing for nitrate in water has been developed at a small
biotechnology company in Lake Linden, Michigan, called the Nitrate Elimination
Co., Inc. The company was started by Campbell and his wife Ellen in 1993 to
produce nitrate reductase us
Contact: Bill Campbell
Michigan Technological University