Phosphorus is an important nutrient in all forms of life, and phosphorus availability is often limited for agriculture. The C-P lyase from bacteria recycles phosphorus-containing compounds by cleaving a wide variety compounds containing carbon-phosphorus bonds.
In collaboration with the Raushel group at Texas A&M, Kailu Yang, a graduate student from the Zhang group, used cryo-electron microscopy to solve the structures of the C-P lyase that had been difficult to look at by other methods. The new structures revealed the binding of the PhnK protein (shown in pink) to a dimeric core complex of the C-P lyase exposes the active site residue in PhnJ. This result provides new insights into phosphorus recycling in nature.