Designing custom organelles in bacteria
- Author(s): Jakobson, Christopher Matthew
- Advisor(s): Tullman-Ercek, Danielle
- et al.
Despite the vast array of enzymatic activities available to metabolic engineers, many biosyntheses are impractical due to the production of toxic intermediates and off-target products, poor kinetic performance, and cofactor imbalances. We aim to address these roadblocks by organizing biosynthetic pathways inside custom organelles within cells. Bacterial microcompartments, porous proteinaceous organelles found in Salmonella and other bacteria, provide an ideal starting point for the engineering of subcellular bacterial organelles. To this end, we develop tools for the control of microcompartment formation, enzyme encapsulation, and small molecule transport across the compartment shell. Of particular interest is the encapsulation of enzymatic pathways that synthesize fuels, pharmaceuticals, and other products which are challenging to produce in the cytosol.
In order to tune the catalytic activity of the microcompartments, we orchestrate microcompartment formation at the transcriptional level to control when the organelles are formed and how much heterologous cargo is encapsulated. We also create new localization signals that allow fine control over the loading of multiple enzymes to the compartments simultaneously. We are investigating the role of pore residues in small molecule transport across the shells of virus-like particles and the microcompartments themselves. Lastly, we use computational tools to model microcompartment function in order to facilitate the selection of pathways for encapsulation. Together, these tools allow the creation of custom biosynthetic organelles with user-defined enzyme content and transport properties, enabling the use of biosynthetic pathways which otherwise fail to function.