Enhancing metabolic flux to photosynthetic bioproducts

One key application of isotopically nonstationary MFA (INST-MFA) is that it can be used to determine metabolic fluxes in autotrophic organisms using 13C tracers, an application that is not possible using conventional steady-state MFA. Working with collaborators at Purdue University, we have applied this approach to quantitatively map fluxes in the photosynthetic bacterium Synechocystis under fully autotrophic conditions (Young et al. Metab Eng 13:656–65, 2011). This is the first time that a comprehensive flux map has been constructed for an autotrophic system. Our future work will extend this approach to investigate strategies to increase production of biofuel compounds in engineered strains of cyanobacteria. These strategies will involve manipulating the endogenous circadian clock of cyanobacteria to enhance overall rates of carbon fixation, while engineering specific network nodes to divert flux into desired end products. By addressing current challenges of enhancing and redirecting flux in photosynthetic microbes, we aim to demonstrate the feasibility of converting energy from sunlight and carbon from CO2 directly into commercial chemicals.

Graduate student: Lara Jazmin
Key collaborators: Carl Johnson (Biology), John Morgan (Purdue), Doug Allen (Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)