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Researchers identify caffeine-feeding bacterium

Some days it can feel as if you subsist on caffeine. But, sadly, you're no competition for a newly discovered caffeine-feeding bacterium called Pseudomonas putida CBB5.

Research on the bacterium is set to be presented today at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans. How the bacterium processes caffeine as a food source and its potential implications for medical research are described in a release:

Caffeine itself is composed of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, all of which are necessary for bacterial cell growth. Within the caffeine molecule are three structures, known as methyl groups, composed of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogen atoms. This bacterium is able to effectively remove these methyl groups (a process known as N-demethylization) and essentially live on caffeine.

[Researchers] have identified the three enzymes responsible for the N-demethylization and the genes that code for these enzymes. Further testing showed that the compounds formed during break down of caffeine are natural building blocks for drugs used to treat asthma, improve blood flow and stabilize heart arrhythmias.

Currently these pharmaceuticals are difficult to synthesize chemically. Using CBB5 enzymes would allow for easier pharmaceutical production, thus lowering their cost. Another potential application is the decaffeination of coffee and tea as an alternative to harsh chemicals currently used.

Previously: Anti-plaque bacteria: Coming soon to your toothpaste?
Via Observations

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