Research Developments in Research Content
June 7, 2022
New Discovery of Steroid Metabolism Mechanism in the Coral Symbiont Zooxanthella Helps Crude Oil Exploration

Science and Technology Daily (Reporter Wang Zhuhua and Intern Qu Yizhen)

On June 6, the reporter learned from Hainan University that Lu Yandu's marine single-cell bioengineering team from School of Oceanography and State Key Laboratory of Marine Resources Utilization in South China Sea has found from their latest research that in the coral symbiosis of Zooxanthella, there is a new type of biosynthesis mechanism that can be co-synthesized C4 α- and C4 β-methylsterol, and the mechanism is widely available in the Alveolata (such as Zooxanthella) and dinoflagellate (such as golden-brown algae) and other globally distributed plankton.

"These organisms play an important influence in marine biogeochemical processes." According to the introduction of the team leader, the new discovery amends the classical model of the origin of C4α- and C4β-methylsteranes, which will further improve the method of measuring sediment maturity indicators and provide new theoretical support for the interpretation of the history of geologic changes and crude oil exploration. The findings were recently published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, an international journal in the field of chemistry.

Crude oil is described as the blood of the nation's industry. Biogeology is an important tool for predicting the presence of subsurface oil and gas reservoirs. Variations in the abundance of C4-methylstilbene in rock formations have been widely applied in studies of biological evolution and the history of geologic alteration, and the biological origin of its isomeric form, C4α-methylstilbene, has received a positive consensus in the industry, but its biosynthetic pathway has never been experimentally confirmed. The origin of its isomeric form, C4β-methylsterolane, on the other hand, has been controversial; few biological sources of it have been found in nature. C4β-methylsterols have long been recognized as C4α-methylsterols formed during diagenesis, and the ratio of C4α- to C4β-methylsterols has been used as an important indicator of sediment maturity for crude oil and natural gas exploration. To be simple, the older the formation, the higher the C4α/β ratio, the higher the maturity of the formation, and the more likely it is to form crude oil. As a result, the elucidation of the biosynthetic mechanism of C4-methylsterol is of great theoretical significance and practical value.

This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Key Research and Development Program of Hainan Province, and the Open Topics of the State Key Laboratory of Marine Resources Utilization in South China Sea.

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