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J Biol Chem. 2010 Oct 15;285(42):32458-66. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.157230. Epub 2010 Aug 12.

Raman spectroscopy analysis of botryococcene hydrocarbons from the green microalga Botryococcus braunii.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2128, USA.


Botryococcus braunii, B race is a unique green microalga that produces large amounts of liquid hydrocarbons known as botryococcenes that can be used as a fuel for internal combustion engines. The simplest botryococcene (C(30)) is metabolized by methylation to give intermediates of C(31), C(32), C(33), and C(34), with C(34) being the predominant botryococcene in some strains. In the present work we have used Raman spectroscopy to characterize the structure of botryococcenes in an attempt to identify and localize botryococcenes within B. braunii cells. The spectral region from 1600-1700 cm(-1) showed ν(C=C) stretching bands specific for botryococcenes. Distinct botryococcene Raman bands at 1640 and 1647 cm(-1) were assigned to the stretching of the C=C bond in the botryococcene branch and the exomethylene C=C bonds produced by the methylations, respectively. A Raman band at 1670 cm(-1) was assigned to the backbone C=C bond stretching. Density function theory calculations were used to determine the Raman spectra of all botryococcenes to compare computed theoretical values with those observed. The analysis showed that the ν(C=C) stretching bands at 1647 and 1670 cm(-1) are actually composed of several closely spaced bands arising from the six individual C=C bonds in the molecule. We also used confocal Raman microspectroscopy to map the presence and location of methylated botryococcenes within a colony of B. braunii cells based on the methylation-specific 1647 cm(-1) botryococcene Raman shift.

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