Campus Caffeine Junkies

I was greatly encouraged to read (1) that it is not only you or I that need our shot of caffeine to survive the day. A little new beastie, who goes by the name of Pseudomonas putida CBB5, was caught lurking in the flowerbeds of the U of Iowa and living off caffeine. A good mulch of coffee grounds on the grounds are grounds for complaint if new bacteria are going to pop up all over the place without a formal acceptance of admission.

However, this freshman microbe is no java-snob. It will also bite the methyl groups off theobromine, so a tea-leaf mulch is also perfectly acceptable fodder for the little guy. Now that it is well established on campus, it is all set to play an important part in the life of the University.

The laboratories are becoming its new focus, where it is letting the molecular biologists explore its genes. It has in its pockets four new enzymes that it is using to turn coffee and tea waste into its lunch and dinner. With the help of its molecular biologist coworkers, it has lent its genes to some tame E. coli who rushed off to make large quantities of the enzymes.

Once these little guys get working round the clock, they should learn to produce enough of these enzymes to turn coffee, tea and chocolate waste into animal food. The downside is that formaldehyde is produced at the same time, with the danger that the animals may become to well preserved for us to eat. If the animals are too fussy to try something new, plan B is to turn the waste into fuel instead.

  1. Summers et al., Paper 2794, Session 236, 111 Gen. Meet. American Soc. Microbiol. (2011).

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