EBI Personnel Directory Tullman-Ercek, Danielle
The microbial conversion of sugars to biofuels is a promising new technology, but the fuels produced are often toxic to the microbial producers. One promising solution is to alter the pumps that microbes use to secrete antibiotics and other toxic chemicals to secrete the fuel product out of the cell instead. Understanding the natural diversity of such pumps and how to modify them for the efflux of desired chemicals will be critical for successful microbial biofuel production. The group is characterizing and genetically optimizing protein-based efflux pumps to secrete two important classes of biofuels from gram-negative bacteria.
Concentrations of biofuel required for an industrial process at a relevant scale in microorganisms have not yet been demonstrated, because the fuels are often toxic to the host organism. Fuels are also difficult to cheaply remove from the cell. This project is introducing a small-molecule secretion "pump" engineered to efflux the fuels of interest at high yield. The insights the team gains can be applied to develop pumps and transporters that secrete other small molecules of interest, such as inhibitors from hydrolysate or toxic metabolic side products.