EECE Seminar - Dr. Peng Xu

Feb 7
11:00 AM
12:00 PM
Brauer Hall, room 12

Dr. Peng Xu, Assistant Professor
Department of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering
Univesity of Maryland

Encoding decision-making functions into cell metabolism: the marriage of synthetic biology, combinatorial chemistry and intelligent control

Living organism is an intelligent system consisting of sensors, transducers and actuators to perform precisely-controlled metabolic functions. With a better understanding of cellular regulation, biomolecular engineers have been able to engineer both the chemistry modules (the mass flow) and the control modules (the information flow) inside the cell to design intelligent cells with improved performance. Instead of programing machine language in a chemical plant, metabolic engineers rewrite the genetic software and encode logic functions in living cells to improve cellular performance. With an influx of computational and control theories influencing biomolecular engineering, we start thinking about cell metabolism in a much broader context and larger tempo-spatial scale. In this lecture, I will present both computational and experimental approach to unravel the design principles underlying efficient biomanufacturing platforms, autonomous metabolic switches, microbial social interactions for various biotechnological applications. I will present strategies to build genetic toolkits to streamline the genetic/genome modification for a promising industrial yeast Y. lipolytica, which allows us to harness the endogenous acetyl-CoA/malonyl-CoA/HMG-CoA metabolism to produce complex oleochemicals, terpenes, polyketides and aromatic commodity chemicals. I will also present our recent effort to combine metabolic addiction with negative autoregulation to partition metabolic flux and improve strain stability in this yeast. Engineering feedback genetic circuits to encode decision-making functions into cell metabolism will present us exciting opportunities to solve the most pressing challenges in health, energy and environment facing the 21st century.