Problems of the intramural stage of BioTournament 2019

1. Only after dark.

Molecular hydrogen is a promising alternative to fossil fuels due to its high energy, storage capabilities, the ability of fuel cells to directly convert hydrogen into electricity, and moreover when hydrogen is burned, only water is formed. The photosynthetic production of hydrogen by microalgae is a potential source of renewable clean energy because algae use only water and sunlight to form hydrogen. The enzyme Fe – Fe hydrogenase catalyzes the production of hydrogen with extremely high rates, but this process takes place after dark adaptation and stops after several minutes in the light which limits the large-scale use of microalgae for hydrogen production. Consider the possible mechanisms of the cessation of the photosynthetic hydrogen production and suggest ways to overcome these limitations of the large-scale use of microalgae for hydrogen production.

The problem’s author is  Marina A. Kozuleva, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University.

2. Immigraniada

Each species has its own habitat, but increasingly it is possible to meet populations outside the original range. This situation is called “biological invasion”. During the invasion, alien species may die without spreading to the new territory, can master the vacant ecological niche or displace the native species and expand the boundaries of their range. Often, invasive species have a negative impact on native ecosystems.

At the moment, there are not so many multilateral studies of biological invasions, especially if we are talking about an unintended invasion of a species into an ecosystem (in contrary to introduced species). There are various studies of different aspects of biological invasion, but it is rather difficult to give a comprehensive assessment of this phenomenon.

Suggest a biological invasion research strategy and quantitative methods for predicting the viability of an invasive species population and its further impact on the recipient ecosystem.

The problem’s author is Valeria V. Adamova, Belgorod State University.

3. Ouroboros

Bacteriolytic enzymes of microbial origin, for example, produced by bacteria of the genus Lysobacter, are of great interest to biomedicine as an alternative to antibiotics. However, the native producer strain, as a rule, is not able to synthesize these enzymes in sufficient quantities. Expression of recombinant genes of lytic enzymes, in particular in E. coli, may be accompanied by lysis of producer bacteria. In addition, for the secretion of these enzymes, a specific secretory system is needed, the analogs of which are not always present in the microorganisms used. Develop an efficient expression system for producing bacteriolytic enzymes on a production scale, using the α-lytic protease of the microorganism Lysobacter enzymogenes as an example.

The problem’s author is Irina V. Kudryakova, Ph.D., researcher at the laboratory of cell surface biochemistry of microorganisms, IBPM RAS, “Pushchino Scientific Center for Biological Research”. 

4. Grab everything from the crab

In the waters of the North Pacific Ocean, as well as in the Barents Sea, every year about ten thousand tons of Red king crab is caught. Processing of crab is associated with a large amount of waste that is thrown into the sea. This waste includes hepatopancreas, which contains highly active digestive enzymes. However, large-scale processing of the red king crab hepatopancreas is still not conducted, which is associated with the difficulty of collecting, storing and transporting and, accordingly, the high cost of this raw material. Suggest solutions to the problems associated with scaling up the process of processing the red crab hepatopancreas.

The problem’s author is Evgeny A. Sogorin, Ph.D., Head of the Laboratory of Applied Enzymology, “Pushchino Scientific Center for Biological Research”. 

5. Little pigs – big problems.

Industrial methods of pig farming are cost-effective and in a short time allow solving the problem of supplying the population with meat products. At the same time, their operation raised several serious issues related to the protection of the environment. The main source of environmental pollution is liquid runoff from livestock farms. Application of a fresh pig waste to the fields as fertilizer is impractical for a number of agrotechnical and sanitary reasons. Only after a few years, the waste is ready to be applied as fertilizer, which requires large areas occupied by waste.

Offer cost-effective for the territory of the Russian Federation methods of accelerated processing of liquid waste from large pig-farming complexes, as result of which a commercial product can be obtained.

The problem’s author is Alexander V. Shitov, Ph.D., senior researcher, IBBP RAS, “Pushchino Scientific Center for Biological Research”. 

6. Saving Private Pony

Equine infectious anemia (anemia infectiosa equorum, EIA) is a viral disease characterized by lesions of the blood-forming organs and manifested by a recurrent or persistent fever, anemia, symptoms of hemorrhagic diathesis during temperature attacks and dysfunction of the cardiovascular system. There is a general kit for the diagnosis of the EIA which includes: a specific precipitating antigen from a horse’s spleen tissue experimentally infected with a virus, and polyclonal specific serum.

The antigen preparation is highly specific, however, its production requires a large number of infected horses, which leads to significant material costs, to a decrease in the standardity of the drug due to the large variety of raw materials and does not exclude the possibility of illness of people who come in contact with infected animals. In addition, the EIA virus belongs to difficult-to-cultivate viruses, the collection of the virus-containing suspension is carried out with a duration of up to 3 months due to the insufficient accumulation of the virus.

Develop innovative, less costly and more efficient technologies for obtaining components of the test system for diagnosing infectious anemia of horses.

The problem’s author is prof. Irina N. Matveeva, Institute of Biological Industry RAS.

7. The Great Expression

Proposed by tournament’s partner EFKO Group

Chymosin is a ruminant rennet enzyme fermenting milk, used in cheese production. For a long time, the main source of natural chymosin was an extract from abraded stomachs of calves. To provide a cheaper and more convenient method of industrial production of chymosin, a strain-producer of genetically engineered calf chymosin based on methylotrophic Pichia pastoris X-33 yeast was obtained with an expression of the target protein in an amount of 0.1 g / l of culture medium. In the development of the producer, the calf prochymosin gene (sequence number in the GeneBank NM180994) was used, and the plasmid pPICZaA (Invitrogen) was used as a vector for integrating the gene into the yeast genomic DNA. Plasmid gene insertion was performed at EcoRI / SalI sites. In the process of cultivation of yeast, chymosin is expressed as an inactive pro-enzyme, followed by activation upon acidification of the medium to pH <3. After chromatographic purification of active chymosin and analysis of its physicochemical parameters and specific activity, it was established that the recombinant enzyme is not inferior in its basic properties to native calf chymosin. For profitable industrial production of genetically engineered chymosin, stable expression of the enzyme by a producer strain of at least 0.5 g / l is necessary. Without changing the producer strain, suggest the most optimal genetic construct to increase the expression of recombinant chymosin. Map the proposed genetic construct, describe its structural elements and their function. The problem’s author is Anton A. Sychev.

8. Waiting for the postman

Proposed by tournament’s partner MEL Science

MEL Science produces and distributes physics and chemistry teaching kits for home experiments.

Develope a prototype of an experimental kit for biology and medicine that allows to clearly demonstrate the main achievements of molecular biology, biochemistry and human physiology. The proposed kit must be completely safe and comply with the rules of mailing in the USA.

9. Immune question

Proposed by tournament’s partner BIOCAD 

The activity of the immune response in human body is regulated by systems that ensure its induction or inhibition. So in the tumor microenvironment, the balance is often shifted towards inhibition, which makes the tumor invisible to the body’s immune system. Activation of the immune system by blocking inhibitors and activating inducers is one of the promising directions in the field of oncology. However, a shift in balance throughout the whole organismtowards induction contributes to the development of autoimmune reactions.

Suggest approaches that provide a balance shift towards the induction of the activity of the immune system only in the tumor microenvironment, without affecting the entire body.