ChBE Seminar Series: Steve Hutcheson
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Room 2108 Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Bldg.
Professor Ganesh Sriram
What Can a Bacterium from the Chesapeake Bay Tell Us About the Processing of Biomass?
Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
University of Maryland, College Park
The use of synthetic biology to engineer microorganisms to process cellulosic biomass into value-added chemicals has met with mixed success mainly because we have lacked essential tools. Saccharophagus degradans, a gamma subgroup proteobacterium that was isolated from decaying marsh grass in the Chesapeake Bay, offers an alternative set of tools to convert biomass into chemicals. This bacterium is capable of degrading and processing all of the complex polysaccharides of cellulosic biomass for its growth. The annotation of its genome sequence has revealed over 100 genes that could be involved in the processing of biomass polymers. The essential genes for the processing of cellulose, in particular, have been identified through biochemical, genetic and transcriptome analysis and a model assembled for how cellulose is metabolized by this bacterium. This analysis has revealed a complex process involving secreted enzymes, novel transport processes as well as cytoplasmic steps to convert insoluble cellulose to its constituent glucose. This knowledge provides tools to engineer a bacterium to convert cellulose into value added chemicals, such as a biofuel.