Researchers at the University of South Florida are harnessing the power of human physiology to transform greenhouse gases into usable chemical compounds—a method that could help lessen industrial dependence on petroleum and reduce our carbon footprint.
The new biologically-based technique, published in Nature Chemical Biology, was developed by USF Professor Ramon Gonzalez, Ph.D., and his research team. It utilizes the human enzyme, 2-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A lyase (HACL), to convert specific one-carbon (C1) materials into more complex compounds commonly used as the building blocks for an endless number of consumer and industrial products.
“In humans, this enzyme degrades branched chain fatty acids,” Gonzalez said. “It basically breaks down long carbon chains into smaller pieces. We needed it to do the opposite. So, we engineered the process to work in reverse—taking single carbon molecules and converting them into larger compounds… Continue reading.
Abstract: The more than 50,000 isoprenoids found in nature are all derived from the 5-carbon diphosphates isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl pyrophosphate (DMAPP). Natively, IPP and DMAPP are generated by the mevalonate (MVA) and 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathways, which have been engineered to produce compounds with numerous applications. However, as these pathways are inherently constrained by carbon, energy inefficiencies, and their roles in native metabolism, engineering for isoprenoid biosynthesis at high flux, titer, and yield remains a challenge. To overcome these limitations, here we develop an alternative synthetic pathway termed the isoprenoid alcohol (IPA) pathway that centers around the synthesis and subsequent phosphorylation of IPAs. We first established a lower IPA pathway for the conversion of IPAs to isoprenoid pyrophosphate intermediates that enabled the production of greater than 2 g/L geraniol from prenol as well as limonene, farnesol, diaponeurosporene, and lycopene. We then designed upper IPA pathways for the generation of (iso)prenol from central carbon metabolites with the development of a route to prenol enabling its synthesis at more than 2 g/L. Using prenol as the linking intermediate further facilitated an integrated IPA pathway that resulted in the production of nearly 0.6 g/L total monoterpenoids from glycerol as the sole carbon source. The IPA pathway provides an alternative route to isoprenoids that is more energy efficient than native pathways and can serve as a platform for targeting a repertoire of isoprenoid compounds with application as high-value pharmaceuticals, commodity chemicals, and fuels… Continue reading.
From medicine to fragrances, nature provides many of the key chemical compounds needed in an endless number of pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Now, a cutting-edge technique engineered by researchers at University of South Florida is changing the way scientists isolate these precious molecules.
“Plant natural products are already widely used across so many industries,” said Ramon Gonzalez, Ph.D., professor in the USF Department of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering and a Florida 21st Century World Class Scholar. “Taxus brevifolia, for example, the Pacific yew plant, contains molecules that are used to produce a chemotherapy drug for several cancer treatments. The problem is that many of these products are expensive and difficult to extract efficiently… Continue reading.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the induction of Ramon Gonzalez, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Bioengineering, Rice University, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Gonzalez was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for outstanding contributions to the fields of metabolic engineering and industrial biomanufacturing.