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Title: Redirection of metabolism for hydrogen production

This project is to develop and apply techniques in metabolic engineering to improve the biocatalytic potential of the bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris for nitrogenase-catalyzed hydrogen gas production. R. palustris, is an ideal platform to develop as a biocatalyst for hydrogen gas production because it is an extremely versatile microbe that produces copious amounts of hydrogen by drawing on abundant natural resources of sunlight and biomass. Anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria, such as R. palustris, generate hydrogen and ammonia during a process known as biological nitrogen fixation. This reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase and normally consumes nitrogen gas, ATP and electrons. The applied use of nitrogenase for hydrogen production is attractive because hydrogen is an obligatory product of this enzyme and is formed as the only product when nitrogen gas is not supplied. Our challenge is to understand the systems biology of R. palustris sufficiently well to be able to engineer cells to produce hydrogen continuously, as fast as possible and with as high a conversion efficiency as possible of light and electron donating substrates. For many experiments we started with a strain of R. palustris that produces hydrogen constitutively under all growth conditions. We then identified metabolic pathways and enzymes importantmore » for removal of electrons from electron-donating organic compounds and for their delivery to nitrogenase in whole R. palustris cells. For this we developed and applied improved techniques in 13C metabolic flux analysis. We identified reactions that are important for generating electrons for nitrogenase and that are yield-limiting for hydrogen production. We then increased hydrogen production by blocking alternative electron-utilizing metabolic pathways by mutagenesis. In addition we found that use of non-growing cells as biocatalysts for hydrogen gas production is an attractive option, because cells divert all resources away from growth and to hydrogen. Also R. palustris cells remain viable in a non-growing state for long periods of time.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
The University of Washington
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE SC Office of Biological and Environmental Research (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Hydrogen gas, nitrogenase, bacteria, photosynthesis, Calvin cycle