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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A model for improving microbial biofuel production using a synthetic feedback loop

  • Author(s): Dunlop, Mary J.
  • Keasling, Jay D.
  • Mukhopadhyay, Aindrila
  • et al.

Cells use feedback to implement a diverse range of regulatory functions. Building synthetic feedback control systems may yield insight into the roles that feedback can play in regulation since it can be introduced independently of native regulation, and alternative control architectures can be compared. We propose a model for microbial biofuel production where a synthetic control system is used to increase cell viability and biofuel yields. Although microbes can be engineered to produce biofuels, the fuels are often toxic to cell growth, creating a negative feedback loop that limits biofuel production. These toxic effects may be mitigated by expressing efflux pumps that export biofuel from the cell. We developed a model for cell growth and biofuel production and used it to compare several genetic control strategies for their ability to improve biofuel yields. We show that controlling efflux pump expression directly with a biofuel-responsive promoter is a straightforward way of improving biofuel production. In addition, a feed forward loop controller is shown to be versatile at dealing with uncertainty in biofuel production rates.

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