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Augmenting Protocols for In-situ Separation of Biocompounds.

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In our modern world the source of for many chemicals is to acquire and refine oil. This process is becoming an expensive to the environment and to human health. Alternative processes for acquiring the final product have been developed but

In our modern world the source of for many chemicals is to acquire and refine oil. This process is becoming an expensive to the environment and to human health. Alternative processes for acquiring the final product have been developed but still need work. One product that is valuable is butanol. The normal process for butanol production is very intensive but there is a method to produce butanol from bacteria. This process is better because it is more environmentally safe than using oil. One problem however is that when the bacteria produce too much butanol it reaches the toxicity limit and stops the production of butanol. In order to keep butanol from reaching the toxicity limit an adsorbent is used to remove the butanol without harming the bacteria. The adsorbent is a mesoporous carbon powder that allows the butanol to be adsorbed on it. This thesis explores different designs for a magnetic separation process to extract the carbon powder from the culture.

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2015-05

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Expanding applications of portable biological systems: enhancements to mammalian gene editing and bacterial quorum sensing networks

Description

The portability of genetic tools from one organism to another is a cornerstone of synthetic biology. The shared biological language of DNA-to-RNA-to-protein allows for expression of polypeptide chains in phylogenetically distant organisms with little modification. The tools and contexts are

The portability of genetic tools from one organism to another is a cornerstone of synthetic biology. The shared biological language of DNA-to-RNA-to-protein allows for expression of polypeptide chains in phylogenetically distant organisms with little modification. The tools and contexts are diverse, ranging from catalytic RNAs in cell-free systems to bacterial proteins expressed in human cell lines, yet they exhibit an organizing principle: that genes and proteins may be treated as modular units that can be moved from their native organism to a novel one. However, protein behavior is always unpredictable; drop-in functionality is not guaranteed.

My work characterizes how two different classes of tools behave in new contexts and explores methods to improve their functionality: 1. CRISPR/Cas9 in human cells and 2. quorum sensing networks in Escherichia coli.

1. The genome-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 has facilitated easily targeted, effective, high throughput genome editing. However, Cas9 is a bacterially derived protein and its behavior in the complex microenvironment of the eukaryotic nucleus is not well understood. Using transgenic human cell lines, I found that gene-silencing heterochromatin impacts Cas9’s ability to bind and cut DNA in a site-specific manner and I investigated ways to improve CRISPR/Cas9 function in heterochromatin.

2. Bacteria use quorum sensing to monitor population density and regulate group behaviors such as virulence, motility, and biofilm formation. Homoserine lactone (HSL) quorum sensing networks are of particular interest to synthetic biologists because they can function as “wires” to connect multiple genetic circuits. However, only four of these networks have been widely implemented in engineered systems. I selected ten quorum sensing networks based on their HSL production profiles and confirmed their functionality in E. coli, significantly expanding the quorum sensing toolset available to synthetic biologists.

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Date Created
2017

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Engineering Cellular Transport Systems to Enhance Lignocellulose Bioconversion

Description

Lignocellulosic biomass represents a renewable domestic feedstock that can support large-scale biochemical production processes for fuels and specialty chemicals. However, cost-effective conversion of lignocellulosic sugars into valuable chemicals by microorganisms still remains a challenge. Biomass recalcitrance to saccharification, microbial substrate

Lignocellulosic biomass represents a renewable domestic feedstock that can support large-scale biochemical production processes for fuels and specialty chemicals. However, cost-effective conversion of lignocellulosic sugars into valuable chemicals by microorganisms still remains a challenge. Biomass recalcitrance to saccharification, microbial substrate utilization, bioproduct titer toxicity, and toxic chemicals associated with chemical pretreatments are at the center of the bottlenecks limiting further commercialization of lignocellulose conversion. Genetic and metabolic engineering has allowed researchers to manipulate microorganisms to overcome some of these challenges, but new innovative approaches are needed to make the process more commercially viable. Transport proteins represent an underexplored target in genetic engineering that can potentially help to control the input of lignocellulosic substrate and output of products/toxins in microbial biocatalysts. In this work, I characterize and explore the use of transport systems to increase substrate utilization, conserve energy, increase tolerance, and enhance biocatalyst performance.

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Date Created
2018

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Design and Engineering of Synthetic Gene Networks

Description

Synthetic gene networks have evolved from simple proof-of-concept circuits to

complex therapy-oriented networks over the past fifteen years. This advancement has

greatly facilitated expansion of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Multistability is a

mechanism that cells use to achieve a discrete number

Synthetic gene networks have evolved from simple proof-of-concept circuits to

complex therapy-oriented networks over the past fifteen years. This advancement has

greatly facilitated expansion of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Multistability is a

mechanism that cells use to achieve a discrete number of mutually exclusive states in

response to environmental inputs. However, complex contextual connections of gene

regulatory networks in natural settings often impede the experimental establishment of

the function and dynamics of each specific gene network.

In this work, diverse synthetic gene networks are rationally designed and

constructed using well-characterized biological components to approach the cell fate

determination and state transition dynamics in multistable systems. Results show that

unimodality and bimodality and trimodality can be achieved through manipulation of the

signal and promoter crosstalk in quorum-sensing systems, which enables bacterial cells to

communicate with each other.

Moreover, a synthetic quadrastable circuit is also built and experimentally

demonstrated to have four stable steady states. Experiments, guided by mathematical

modeling predictions, reveal that sequential inductions generate distinct cell fates by

changing the landscape in sequence and hence navigating cells to different final states.

Circuit function depends on the specific protein expression levels in the circuit.

We then establish a protein expression predictor taking into account adjacent

transcriptional regions’ features through construction of ~120 synthetic gene circuits

(operons) in Escherichia coli. The predictor’s utility is further demonstrated in evaluating genes’ relative expression levels in construction of logic gates and tuning gene expressions and nonlinear dynamics of bistable gene networks.

These combined results illustrate applications of synthetic gene networks to

understand the cell fate determination and state transition dynamics in multistable

systems. A protein-expression predictor is also developed to evaluate and tune circuit

dynamics.

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Date Created
2017