Karel Olavarria Gamez

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are bio-produced and bio-degradable plastics able to substitute at least some of the currently predominant fossil fuel-based plastics. However, the large scale production of such bio-plastics face several challenges. One of those challenges is the cost of aeriation and cooling. The development of technologies enabling the anaerobic PHAs production and directing a large fraction of the carbon source to the target plastic could have a significant economic impact.

We combine the computational exploration using Flux Balance Analysis with molecular biology tools to engineer the architecture of the central metabolic pathways of Escherichia coli envisioning the production of PHAs under anaerobic conditions. We explore the possibilities and constrains inherent to the utilization of carbon sources with different Carbon-to-electrons ratios (glucose, gluconate, xylose, acetate) assuming different metabolic networks. Beyond the explorations using Flux Balance Analysis and the molecular biology  work to engineer E. coli, we study the physiology of the obtained strains using cultures in chemostat, 13C-based quantitative metabolomics analysis and enzymatic assays.

Keywords:  Polyhydroxyalkanoates, bacterial metabolism, metabolic engineering, flux balance analysis