BuG ReMeDEE - Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE)

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1. Rajesh K Sani

2. Venkata R. Gadhamshetty

3. David R Salem

4. Andrea E Surovek

5. Navanietha Krishnaraj Rathinam

6. Jawahar R Kalimuthu

Research Themes

1. Omics analysis of microbes growing on different carbon sources

Background: Evidence suggests that Rhodobacter sphaeroides uses a modified serine cycle in C1 assimilation, as opposed to most type-II methanotrophs which use a standard serine cycle that appears in most organisms.  Other related species may also have the modified serine cycle, or similar modifications.

Objectives: Uncovering homologs or the same modified serine cycle that is present in R. sphaeroides. Being able to isolate products and increase efficiency of C1 assimilation.

Outcomes: The SURE student will purify products and enzymes to find evidence of a modified serine cycle in type-II methanotrophs. Finding species that contain this modified serine cycle may open research opportunities for Bio-GTL (Bio-gas to Liquid fuels) processes using unexplored bacteria and may lead to enhancement of methane consumption and conversion.

Theme 1
BuG ReMeDEE Research Theme 1

2. Electron transfer mechanisms of phenotypically improved novel methanotrophs at the Electrode-Electrolyte interfaces 

Background: Surface properties of electrode materials exert a critical role in determining the biofilm phenotypes in bioelectrochemical systems. All of the electrode surfaces are characterized by heterogeneous surface properties to an extent, either on a micro- or nano-scale, and will influence the local adhesion forces on adhering microbes. The complex interaction between surfaces and microbes will therefore impact the adaptive responses of electrochemically active biofilms.

Objectives: (i) To find out the influence of surface properties on adhesive forces, gene expression, and production of matrix composition; (ii) phenotypic heterogeneity in response to electrochemical properties; (iii) surface modification strategies to precisely control biofilm phenotypes (electrochemical current; adhesion; and extracellular electron transfer)

Outcomes: High throughput strategy for screening an array of emerging electrode materials; (ii) Correlation between surface properties, electrochemical parameters, and gene expression   

Theme 2.1
BuG ReMeDEE Research Theme 2

3. Engineering the novel microbes for tailoring the composition of biopolymers

Background: Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are a family of biodegradable thermoplastic polyesters produced by microorganisms. They have a great demand in biomedical and industrial sectors, but current biosynthesis methods suffer from poor structural properties, low yield, and high cost. Application of methanotrophs to produce PHAs by oxidizing biogas (methane) can turn out to be a transformative concept because of its double fold advantage of producing the biopolymers simultaneously by tackling the issue of Global Warming (see Figure).

Objectives: (i) Regulation control over biopolymer production in an unexplored bacterium; (ii) Improvement in substrate (methane) uptake for enhanced biopolymer production; and (iii) Biopolymer property enhancement

Outcomes: (i) The SURE student will generate mutants of a methanotroph which will convert methane into PHA at greater rates. (ii) Bioplastic which could replace synthetic plastic.

Project 3.1 SURE
BuG ReMeDEE Research Theme 3

4. Exploring the metal-PHA relationship using a methanotroph - Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b

Background: The research theme is establishing the relationship between the range of copper concentration and expression levels of methane monooxygenase (MMO) enzymes within the obligatory aerobe, Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b. The detailed role of varying copper concentrations on the rates of methane oxidation and the microbe growth profiles will also be evaluate.

Objectives: (I) To study the effects of metals (Copper, Iron and Zinc) on PHA production; (II) To infer sMMO-pMMO relationship with PHA production

Outcomes: (i) Expression profiles of different genes involved in methane oxidation; (ii) Role of metal ions in production of PHA by methanotrophs, which have never been explored

Theme 4.2
BuG ReMeDEE Research Theme 4