Berkeley researchers get E. coli to produce fluorinated molecules

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In California, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have coaxed Escherichia coli to use fluorinated building blocks to make new organofluorine target molecules.

Led by with Michelle C.Y. Chan, the group able to introduce genes to code for enzymes that use fluorine-containing derivatives of their normal substrates. The researchers also introduced a gene for an enzyme used by many bacteria to make polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a biodegradable bioplastic. The fluorinated versions of PHA were less brittle than conventional PHAs, opening up new applications.  The researchers also hope to produce small fluorinated molecules in living cells for pharmaceuticals.

The work, Engineered Fluorine Metabolism and Fluoropolymer Production in Living Cells, was published in a recent issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.