Cyanobacterial Physiology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry
Sub-cellular organization of bacterial metabolism
Bacterial metabolism is highly organized in space and time. This spatial and temporal organization of metabolism enables multiple, often competing, reactions to occur simultaneously in the same cell. While subcellular organization in the form of membrane-bound organelles has become the paradigm for eukaryotes, the cellular complexity of bacteria and the inherent relationship to metabolism is only beginning to be appreciated. To unlock the true potential of synthetic biology and design novel microbial systems, signaling pathways and metabolic networks, the subcellular environment must be considered. Thus, our research is focused on using synthetic biology to understand native principles of cellular organization and design novel subcellular architectures for controlling metabolic networks in microbial systems. Cyanobacteria are major primary producers and are unique in their ability to perform oxygenic photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and CO2 fixation; these reactions are naturally optimized through spatial and temporal separation. These attributes make cyanobacteria ideal subjects for the modulation of cellular architecture and metabolism.
Ancestors of modern day cyanobacteria were the first to perform oxygenic photosynthesis. These reactions have changed the atmospheric composition of this planet and have dramatically shifted the evolutionary trajectory of earth’s inhabitants. In cyanobacteria, the photosynthetic electron transfer complexes are located in the thylakoid membrane system. We are interested in understanding the spatial and temporal organization of photosynthesis in cyanobacteria. Because photosynthesis provides the building blocks for the generation of food, fuel, green chemicals, and other useful products essential for life on earth, understanding how photosynthesis is regulated and identifying potential routes for improvement will benefit society and the environment.