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Biological Chemistry & Metabolic Engineering

Model of the Clostridium acetobutylicum iron hydrogenase from the George Bennett Lab

Clostridium acetobutylicum iron hydrogenase model


Recent accomplishments in the creation of biomolecules with tailored functions, in combination with advances in our ability to create and optimize synthetic biomolecular networks, are leading to a revolution in Biological Chemistry and Metabolic Engineering. The emerging technologies for creating biomaterials with programmed functions, ranging in scale from a single enzyme to a population of cells, have the potential to create biological systems that perform almost any task imaginable and are expected to transform the way we produce industrially and medically important materials. Because enzyme catalysis is central to the use of biocatalysts in many applications, several research groups at Rice are are involved in the study of the molecular mechanisms by which biomolecules function. Since a basic understanding of metabolism is central to many engineering goals, several groups are also studying metabolism in model systems, such as Clostridium acetobutylicum, Escherichia coli, Bacillus stearothermophilus, Streptomyces viridifaciens, and Arabidopsis thaliana.

Faculty links:

George N. Bennett:  Response of microbes to stress and use of metabolic engineering to generate strains with beneficial properties (lab home page).  

Matthew Bennett: Matthew Bennett studies synthetic biology and the dynamics of gene regulation. His lab uses a hybrid computational and experimental approach to design, construct and understand gene regulatory networks (lab home page).

Janet Braam: Regulation and functions of genes encoding calmodulin-related proteins and cell wall modifying enzymes of plants; control of gene expression in response to mechanical force (lab home page).

Seiichi P. T. Matsuda: Recombinant biosynthetic approaches to natural product biosynthesis; directed evolution and DNA shuffling to generate new oxidosqualene cyclases; metabolic engineering to produce terpenes.

John S. Olson: Biochemical, biophysical, and physiological properties of myoglobins, hemoglobins, and red blood cells; genetic engineering of heme protein based blood substitutes; application of rapid kinetic techniques to biological problems (lab home page).

George N. Phillips, Jr.: Prof. Phillips has a strong protein structure program, including a major project on discovery and structural studies on enzymes involved in natural product biosynthesis. The ultimate goal is to be able to create a wide range of novel semi-synthetic small molecules to use for screening for potential drug leads for cancer and other diseases.

Exploring unknown metabolic pathways by genome mining in the Matsuda Lab

Laura Segatori: Biotechnology and protein engineering; cell and tissue engineering; protein folding; neurodegenerative diseases (lab home page.)

Yousif Shamoo: The evolutionary and molecular basis for antibiotic resistance, directed evolution of protein structure-function, and the underlying biophysical and physiochemical principles of adaptation within bacterial populations (lab home page).

Jonathan Silberg: Investigation of the processes controlling molecular evolution, particularly the evolution of protein structure, function, and molecular recognition using biochemical, computational, and molecular biological methods (lab home page).

Jeffrey J. Tabor: Use of light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation to control the activities in proteins inside of cells in real time, constructing synthetic transcriptional and post-translational signaling circuits, programming cells to communicate using unnatural signals, and combining all of these technologies to program synthetic multicellular behaviors.

Studies of the effects of Arabidopsis thaliana Squalene Epoxidase 1 on root and seed development from the Matsuda and Bartel Labs