E. coli taught to make Phoenician purple

Korean biochemists, led by Professor Kim Byeonggi from Seoul National University, have recreated Tyrian purple. This is a paint that was produced in ancient Phenicia. To do this, scientists have modified the genome of E. coli.

Microbes can be used directly as a dye, which can penetrate the fibers of fabrics and saturate them with purple. In addition, the genome of microbes can be modified so that the dye turns green or yellow. In the long term, this will make it possible to generate bacterial paints of any color, thus eliminating toxic solvents and by-products from the production of synthetic paints.

The paint in question was discovered in ancient Phenicia about 3.6 thousand years ago. For the first time, they tried to recreate it in a laboratory in 2010. However, the technology was not suitable for production on an industrial scale.

In order to obtain the dibromindigo substance that makes up the paint, the team of scientists inserted genes into the DNA of the common E. coli (Escherichia coli), which are needed for the synthesis of this compound.

Thus, E. coli, as it were, learned to capture tryptophan and bromine salts to produce a dye.

The team also created several modifications of E. coli to create not only purple but also red, brown, blue, and beige counterparts.

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