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Improvement strategies for the production of renewable chemicals by Synechocystis sp PCC 6803

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Synechocystis sp PCC 6803 is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that can be easily transformed to produce molecules of interest; this has increased Synechocystis’ popularity as a clean energy platform. Synechocystis has been shown to produce and excrete molecules such as fatty

Synechocystis sp PCC 6803 is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that can be easily transformed to produce molecules of interest; this has increased Synechocystis’ popularity as a clean energy platform. Synechocystis has been shown to produce and excrete molecules such as fatty acids, isoprene, etc. after appropriate genetic modification. Challenges faced for large–scale growth of modified Synechocystis include abiotic stress, microbial contamination and high processing costs of product and cell material. Research reported in this dissertation contributes to solutions to these challenges. First, abiotic stress was addressed by overexpression of the heat shock protein ClpB1. In contrast to the wild type, the ClpB1 overexpression mutant (Slr1641+) tolerated rapid temperature changes, but no difference was found between the strains when temperature shifts were slower. Combination of ClpB1 overexpression with DnaK2 overexpression (Slr1641+/Sll0170+) further increased thermotolerance. Next, we used a Synechocystis strain that carries an introduced isoprene synthase gene (IspS+) and that therefore produces isoprene. We attempted to increase isoprene yields by overexpression of key enzymes in the methyl erythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway that leads to synthesis of the isoprene precursor. Isoprene production was not increased greatly by MEP pathway induction, likely because of limitations in the affinity of the isoprene synthase for the substrate. Finally, two extraction principles, two–phase liquid extraction (e.g., with an organic and aqueous phase) and solid–liquid extraction (e.g., with a resin) were tested. Two–phase liquid extraction is suitable for separating isoprene but not fatty acids from the culture medium. Fatty acid removal required acidification or surfactant addition, which affected biocompatibility. Therefore, improvements of both the organism and product–harvesting methods can contribute to enhancing the potential of cyanobacteria as solar–powered biocatalysts for the production of petroleum substitutes.

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2013

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Study of Edwardsiella ictaluri conserved genes towards the development of an attenuated recombinant vaccine for fish host

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Teleosts have the most primitive adaptive immune system. However, in terms of functionality the teleost immune system is similar to birds and mammals. On the other hand, enteric bacterial pathogens of mammals and birds present conserved regulatory mechanisms that control

Teleosts have the most primitive adaptive immune system. However, in terms of functionality the teleost immune system is similar to birds and mammals. On the other hand, enteric bacterial pathogens of mammals and birds present conserved regulatory mechanisms that control virulence factors. In this context, deletion of conserved genes that control virulence factors have been successfully used as measure to construct live attenuated bacterial vaccines for mammals and birds. Here, I hypothesize that evolutionary conserved genes, which control virulence factors or are essential for bacterial physiology in Enterobacteriaceae, could be used as universal tools to design live attenuated recombinant bacterial vaccines from fish to mammals. The evolutionary conserved genes that control virulence factors, crp and fur, and the essential gene for the synthesis of the cell wall, asd, were studied in Edwardsiella ictaluri to develop a live recombinant vaccine for fish host. The genus Edwardsiella is one of the most ancient represent of the Enterobacteriaceae family. E. ictaluri, a host restricted pathogen of catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), is the causative agent of the enteric septicemia and one of the most important pathogens of this fish aquaculture. Although, crp and fur control different virulence factors in Edwardsiella, in comparison to other enterics, individual deletion of these genes triggered protective immune response at the systemic and mucosal level of the fish. Deletion of asdA gene allowed the creation of a balanced-lethal system to syntheses heterologous antigens. I concluded that crp, fur and asd could be universally used to develop live attenuate recombinant Enterobacteriaceae base vaccines for different hosts.

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2012

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Mechanism of the F₁ ATPase molecular motor as revealed by single molecule studies

Description

The F1Fo ATP synthase is required for energy conversion in almost all living organisms. The F1 complex is a molecular motor that uses ATP hydrolysis to drive rotation of the γ–subunit. It has not been previously possible to resolve the

The F1Fo ATP synthase is required for energy conversion in almost all living organisms. The F1 complex is a molecular motor that uses ATP hydrolysis to drive rotation of the γ–subunit. It has not been previously possible to resolve the speed and position of the γ–subunit of the F1–ATPase as it rotates during a power stroke. The single molecule experiments presented here measured light scattered from 45X91 nm gold nanorods attached to the γ–subunit that provide an unprecedented 5 μs resolution of rotational position as a function of time. The product of velocity and drag, which were both measured directly, resulted in an average torque of 63±8 pN nm for the Escherichia coli F1-ATPase that was determined to be independent of the load. The rotational velocity had an initial (I) acceleration phase 15° from the end of the catalytic dwell, a slow (S) acceleration phase during ATP binding/ADP release (15°–60°), and a fast (F) acceleration phase (60°–90°) containing an interim deceleration (ID) phase (75°–82°). High ADP concentrations decreased the velocity of the S phase proportional to 'ADP-release' dwells, and the F phase proportional to the free energy derived from the [ADP][Pi]/[ATP] chemical equilibrium. The decreased affinity for ITP increased ITP-binding dwells by 10%, but decreased velocity by 40% during the S phase. This is the first direct evidence that nucleotide binding contributes to F1–ATPase torque. Mutations that affect specific phases of rotation were identified, some in regions of F1 previously considered not to contribute to rotation. Mutations βD372V and γK9I increased the F phase velocity, and γK9I increased the depth of the ID phase. The conversion between S and F phases was specifically affected by γQ269L. While βT273D, βD305E, and αR283Q decreased the velocity of all phases, decreases in velocity due to βD302T, γR268L and γT82A were confined to the I and S phases. The correlations between the structural locations of these mutations and the phases of rotation they affect provide new insight into the molecular basis for F1–ATPase γ-subunit rotation.

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2012

Functional and proteome differences in skeletal muscle mitochondria between lean and obese humans

Description

Skeletal muscle (SM) mitochondria generate the majority of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in SM, and help regulate whole-body energy expenditure. Obesity is associated with alterations in SM mitochondria, which are unique with respect to their arrangement within cells; some mitochondria are

Skeletal muscle (SM) mitochondria generate the majority of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in SM, and help regulate whole-body energy expenditure. Obesity is associated with alterations in SM mitochondria, which are unique with respect to their arrangement within cells; some mitochondria are located directly beneath the sarcolemma (i.e., subsarcolemmal (SS) mitochondria), while other are nested between the myofibrils (i.e., intermyofibrillar (IMF) mitochondria). Functional and proteome differences specific to SS versus IMF mitochondria in obese individuals may contribute to reduced capacity for muscle ATP production seen in obesity. The overall goals of this work were to (1) isolate functional muscle SS and IMF mitochondria from lean and obese individuals, (2) assess enzyme activities associated with the electron transport chain and ATP production, (3) determine if elevated plasma amino acids enhance SS and IMF mitochondrial respiration and ATP production rates in SM of obese humans, and (4) determine differences in mitochondrial proteome regulating energy metabolism and key biological processes associated with SS and IMF mitochondria between lean and obese humans.

Polarography was used to determine functional differences in isolated SS and IMF mitochondria between lean (37 ± 3 yrs; n = 10) and obese (35 ± 3 yrs; n = 11) subjects during either saline (control) or amino acid (AA) infusions. AA infusion increased ADP-stimulated respiration (i.e., coupled respiration), non-ADP stimulated respiration (i.e., uncoupled respiration), and ATP production rates in SS, but not IMF mitochondria in lean (n = 10; P < 0.05). Neither infusion increased any of the above parameters in muscle SS or IMF mitochondria of the obese subjects.

Using label free quantitative mass spectrometry, we determined differences in proteomes of SM SS and IMF mitochondria between lean (33 ± 3 yrs; n = 16) and obese (32 ± 3 yrs; n = 17) subjects. Differentially-expressed mitochondrial proteins in SS versus IMF mitochondria of obese subjects were associated with biological processes that regulate: electron transport chain (P<0.0001), citric acid cycle (P<0.0001), oxidative phosphorylation (P<0.001), branched-chain amino acid degradation, (P<0.0001), and fatty acid degradation (P<0.001). Overall, these findings show that obesity is associated with redistribution of key biological processes within the mitochondrial reticulum responsible for regulating energy metabolism in human skeletal muscle.

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2017

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Unique cellular, physiological, and metabolic adaptations to the euendolithic lifestyle in a boring cyanobacterium

Description

Euendolithic cyanobacteria have the remarkable ability to actively excavate and grow within certain minerals. Their activity leads to increased erosion of marine and terrestrial carbonates, negatively affecting coral reef and bivalve ecology. Despite their environmental relevance, the boring mechanism has

Euendolithic cyanobacteria have the remarkable ability to actively excavate and grow within certain minerals. Their activity leads to increased erosion of marine and terrestrial carbonates, negatively affecting coral reef and bivalve ecology. Despite their environmental relevance, the boring mechanism has remained elusive and paradoxical, in that cyanobacteria alkalinize their surroundings, typically leading to carbonate precipitation, not dissolution. Thus, euendoliths must rely on unique adaptations to bore. Recent work using the filamentous model euendolith Mastigocoleus testarum strain BC008 indicated that excavation relied on transcellular calcium transport mediated by P-type ATPases, but the phenomenon remained unclear. Here I present evidence that excavation in M. testarum involves an unprecedented set of adaptations. Long-range calcium transport is achieved through the coordinated pumping of multiple cells, orchestrated by the localization of calcium ATPases in a repeating annular pattern, positioned at a single cell pole, adjacent to each cell septum along the filament. Additionally, specialized chlorotic cells that I named calcicytes, differentiate and accumulate calcium at concentrations more than 500 fold those of canonical cells, likely allowing for fast calcium flow at non-toxic concentrations through undifferentiated cells. I also show, using 13C stable isotope tracers and NanoSIMS imaging, that endolithic M. testarum derives most of its carbon from the mineral carbonates it dissolves, the first autotroph ever shown to fix mineral carbon, confirming the existence of a direct link between oxidized solid carbon pools and reduced organic pools in the biosphere. Finally, using genomic and transcriptomic approaches, I analyze gene expression searching for additional adaptations related to the endolithic lifestyle. A large and diverse set of genes (24% of 6917 genes) were significantly differentially regulated while boring, including several master regulators and genes expectedly needed under this condition (such as transport, nutrient scavenging, oxidative stress, and calcium-binding protein genes). However, I also discovered the up-regulation of several puzzling gene sets involved in alternative carbon fixation pathways, anaerobic metabolism, and some related to photosynthesis and respiration. This transcriptomic data provides us with several new, readily testable hypotheses regarding adaptations to the endolithic lifestyle. In all, my data clearly show that boring organisms show extraordinarily interesting adaptations.

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Date Created
2016

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Discovery of Novel Viruses in Arachnids

Description

Arachnids belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. Ticks are blood-feeding arachnids that vector numerous pathogens of significant medical and veterinary importance, while scorpions have become a common concern in urban desert cities due to

Arachnids belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. Ticks are blood-feeding arachnids that vector numerous pathogens of significant medical and veterinary importance, while scorpions have become a common concern in urban desert cities due to the high level of toxicity in their venom. To date, viruses associated with arachnids have been under sampled and understudied. Here viral metagenomics was used to explore the diversity of viruses present in ticks and scorpions. American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) and blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) were collected in Pennsylvania while one hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) and four bark scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus) were collected in Phoenix. Novel viral genomes described here belong to the families Polyomaviridae, Anelloviridae, Genomoviridae, and a newly proposed family, Arthropolviridae.

Polyomaviruses are non-enveloped viruses with a small, circular double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes that have been identified in a variety of mammals, birds and fish and are known to cause various diseases. Arthropolviridae is a proposed family of circular, large tumor antigen encoding dsDNA viruses that have a unidirectional genome organization. Genomoviruses and anelloviruses are ssDNA viruses that have circular genomes ranging in size from 2–2.4 kb and 2.1–3.8 kb, respectively. Genomoviruses are ubiquitous in the environment, having been identified in a wide range of animal, plant and environmental samples, while anelloviruses have been associated with a plethora of animals.

Here, 16 novel viruses are reported that span four viral families. Eight novel polyomaviruses were recovered from bark scorpions, three arthropolviruses were recovered from dog ticks and one arthropolvirus from a hairy scorpion. Viruses belonging to the families Polyomaviridae and Arthropolviridae are highly divergent. This is the first more extensive study of these viruses in arachnids. Three genomoviruses were recovered from both dog and deer ticks and one anellovirus was recovered from deer ticks, which are the first records of these viruses being recovered from ticks. This work highlights the diversity of dsDNA and ssDNA viruses in the arachnid population and emphasizes the importance of performing viral surveys on these populations.

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Date Created
2019

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Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Macrophage Fusion

Description

Macrophage fusion resulting multinucleated giant cells (MGCs) formation is associated with numerous chronic inflammatory diseases including the foreign body reaction to implanted
biomaterials. Despite long-standing predictions, there have been attempts to use live-cell
imaging to investigate the morphological features initiating

Macrophage fusion resulting multinucleated giant cells (MGCs) formation is associated with numerous chronic inflammatory diseases including the foreign body reaction to implanted
biomaterials. Despite long-standing predictions, there have been attempts to use live-cell
imaging to investigate the morphological features initiating macrophage fusion because
macrophages do not fuse on clean glass required for most imaging techniques. Consequently,
the mechanisms of macrophage fusion remain poorly understood. The goal of this research
project was to characterize the early and late stages of macrophage multinucleation using
fusogenic optical quality substrate. Live-cell imaging with phase-contrast and lattice-light
sheet microscopy revealed that an actin-based protrusion initiates macrophage fusion. WASpdeficient macrophages and macrophages isolated from myeloid cell-specific Cdc42-/- mice
fused at very low rates. In addition, inhibiting the Arp2/3 complex impaired both the formation
of podosomes and macrophage fusion.
Analyses of the late stages of macrophage multinucleation on biomaterials implanted into
mice revealed novel actin-based zipper-like structures (ZLSs) formed at contact sites between
MGCs. The model system that was developed for the induction of ZLSs in vitro allowed for
the characterization of protein composition using confocal and super-resolution microscopy.
Live-cell imaging demonstrated that ZLSs are dynamic formations undergoing continuous
assembly and disassembly and that podosomes are precursors of these structures. It was further
found that E-cadherin and nectin-2 are involved in ZLS formation by bridging the plasma
membranes together. ii
Macrophage fusion on implanted biomaterials inherently involves their adhesion to the
implant surface. While biomaterials rapidly acquire a layer of host proteins, a biological
substrate that is required for macrophage fusion is unknown. It was shown that mice with
fibrinogen deficiency as well as mice expressing fibrinogen incapable of fibrin polymerization
displayed a dramatic reduction of macrophage fusion on biomaterials. Furthermore, these mice
were protected from the formation of the dense collagenous capsule enveloping the implant. It
was also found that the main cell type responsible for the deposition of collagen in the capsule
were mononuclear macrophages but not myofibroblasts. Together, these findings reveal a
critical role of the actin cytoskeleton in macrophage fusion and identify potential targets to
reduce the drawbacks of macrophage fusion on implanted biomaterials.

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Date Created
2021