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Engineering a Co-culture System for Co-utilization of Lignocellulose-derived Sugars for Improved Biomass Conversion

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The inability of a single strain of bacteria to simultaneously and completely consume multiple sugars, such as glucose and xylose, hinder industrial microbial processes for ethanol and lactate production. To overcome this limitation, I am engineering an E. coli co-culture

The inability of a single strain of bacteria to simultaneously and completely consume multiple sugars, such as glucose and xylose, hinder industrial microbial processes for ethanol and lactate production. To overcome this limitation, I am engineering an E. coli co-culture system consisting of two ‘specialists'. One has the ability to only consume xylose and the other only glucose. This allows for co-utilization of lignocellulose-derived sugars so both sugars are completely consumed, residence time is reduced and lactate and ethanol titers are maximized.

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2017-05

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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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Improving cyanobacterial hydrogen production through bioprospecting of natural microbial communities

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Some cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen (H2) under certain physiological conditions and are considered potential agents for biohydrogen production. However, they also present low amounts of H2 production, a reaction reversal towards H2 consumption, and O2 sensitivity. Most attempts to improve

Some cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen (H2) under certain physiological conditions and are considered potential agents for biohydrogen production. However, they also present low amounts of H2 production, a reaction reversal towards H2 consumption, and O2 sensitivity. Most attempts to improve H2 production have involved genetic or metabolic engineering approaches. I used a bio-prospecting approach instead to find novel strains that are naturally more apt for biohydrogen production. A set of 36, phylogenetically diverse strains isolated from terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments were probed for their potential to produce H2 from excess reductant. Two distinct patterns in H2 production were detected. Strains displaying Pattern 1, as previously known from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, produced H2 only temporarily, reverting to H2 consumption within a short time and after reaching only moderately high H2 concentrations. By contrast, Pattern 2 cyanobacteria, in the genera Lyngbya and Microcoleus, displayed high production rates, did not reverse the direction of the reaction and reached much higher steady-state H2 concentrations. L. aestuarii BL J, an isolate from marine intertidal mats, had the fastest production rates and reached the highest steady-state concentrations, 15-fold higher than that observed in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Because all Pattern 2 strains originated in intertidal microbial mats that become anoxic in dark, it was hypothesized that their strong hydrogenogenic capacity may have evolved to aid in fermentation of the photosynthate. When forced to ferment, these cyanobacteria display similarly desirable characteristics of physiological H2 production. Again, L. aestuarii BL J had the fastest specific rates and attained the highest H2 concentrations during fermentation, which proceeded via a mixed-acid pathway to yield acetate, ethanol, lactate, H2, CO2 and pyruvate. The genome of L. aestuarii BL J was sequenced and bioinformatically compared to other cyanobacterial genomes to ascertain any potential genetic or structural basis for powerful H2 production. The association hcp exclusively in Pattern 2 strains suggests its possible role in increased H2 production. This study demonstrates the value of bioprospecting approaches to biotechnology, pointing to the strain L. aestuarii BL J as a source of useful genetic information or as a potential platform for biohydrogen production.

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2013

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Engineering Cellular Transport Systems to Enhance Lignocellulose Bioconversion

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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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Identification of Lactate Export Systems in Escherichia coli through Genetic Screens and Substrate Similarity Search

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The purpose behind this research was to identify unknown transport proteins involved in lactate export. Lactate bioproduction is an environmentally beneficial alternative to petroleum-based plastic production as it produces less toxic waste byproduct and can rely on microbial degradation of

The purpose behind this research was to identify unknown transport proteins involved in lactate export. Lactate bioproduction is an environmentally beneficial alternative to petroleum-based plastic production as it produces less toxic waste byproduct and can rely on microbial degradation of otherwise wasted biomass. Coupled with appropriate product refinement, industrial microbial producers can be genetically engineered to generate quantities of bioplastic approaching 400 million metric tons each year. However, this process is not entirely suitable for large investment, as the fermentative bottlenecks, including product export and homeostasis control, limit production metrics. Previous studies have based their efforts on enhancing cellular machinery, but there remain uncharacterized membrane proteins involved in product export yet to be determined. It has been seen that deletion of known lactate transporters in Escherichia coli resulted in a decrease in lactate production, unlike the expected inhibition of export. This indicates that there exist membrane proteins with the ability to export lactate which may have another similar substrate it primarily transports.To identify these proteins, I constructed a genomic library of all genes in an engineered lactate producing E. coli strain, with known transporter genes deleted, and systematically screened for potential lactate transporter proteins. Plasmids and their isolated proteins were compared utilizing anaerobic plating to identify genes through sanger sequencing. With this method, I identified two proteins, yiaN and ybhL-ybhM, which did not show any significant improvement in lactate production when tested. Attempts were made to improve library diversity, resulting in isopropyl-β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside induction as a likely factor for increased expression of potential fermentation-associated proteins. A genomic library from Lactobacillus plantarum was constructed and screened for transport proteins which could improve lactate production. Results showed that isolated plasmids contained no notable inserts, indicating that the initial transformation limited diversity. Lastly, I compared the results from genomic screening with overexpression of target transporter genes by computational substrate similarity search. Induced expression of ttdT, citT and dcuA together significantly increased lactate export and thus production metrics as well as cell growth. These positive results indicate an effective means of determining substrate promiscuity in membrane proteins with similar organic acid transport capacity.

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2022