Terpene Metabolism & Global Carbon Regulation

Terpenes are the largest family of secondary metabolites produced by plants, and have diverse industrial applications. Terpene molecules are generated from two C5 precursor molecules, IPP and DMAPP. In cyanobacteria, the MEP pathway condenses two glycolysis intermediates, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (G3P) and pyruvate into IPP/DMAPP. Cells also invest large amount of energy and reductant in order to form the high-energy diphosphate bond in IPP/DMAPP and to saturate the carbon chain. Currently, metabolic regulation to the MEP pathway is largely unknown, which posts as a major challenge for the study of the MEP pathway and to metabolic engineering efforts.

Our research expands from an engineered Synechococcus elongatus strain that can produce limonene at high titers. We further look into photosynthesis response to the enhanced secondary metabolism, and seek approaches to further enhance MEP flux toward downstream terpenes. Through various omics (transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and fluxomics) approaches, we intend to better understand the carbon flux distribution between terpene and central metabolism. The goal is to rewire central metabolism to both sustain cell growth and fulfill engineering purposes.

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Our bugs at work

Harvest sunlight energy for a sustainable earth.

Microbiome and Microbial Therapeutics 

Another direction in the lab is to understand gut microbiome topology and stability, and their interaction with host cells. The goal is to intervene gut microbiome and also establish synthetic microbial community as microbial therapeutics. Either engineered microbial strains or synthetic communities can perform functions such as inflammation detection, drug delivery, and disease prevention. 

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Natural or engineered gut microbes for microbial therapeutics

LC-MS/MS Applications

The lab has established a Thermo Orbitrap based MudPIT proteomics platform at Miami University. The central focus is to conduct research independently and with our collaborators to understand metabolism in different cell types through proteomics or PTM studies. We are currently working on metabolism of extremophiles, cyanobacteria, and algae.