Fatty Acid Metabolism in Cyanobacteria
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
With crude oil demand rising and supplies being depleted, alternative energy, specifically biofuels, are of intense scientific interest. Current plant crop based biofuels suffer from several problems, most importantly the use of land needed for food. Cyanobacteria offer a solution to this problem as they do not compete with land for food and produce hydrocarbons that can be used as biofuels. Upon examination of metabolic pathways competing with hydrocarbon synthesis, it appeared that cyanobacteria lacked the major fatty acid degradative metabolic pathway β-oxidation, generally thought to be a universally occurring pathway. Lack of this pathway in cyanobacteria was confirmed by employing a range of analytical techniques. Bioinformatic analysis suggested that potential enzymes with β-oxidation activity were involved in other metabolic pathways. A sensitive assay was set up to detect acyl- CoAs, the substrates of β-oxidation, using liquid chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. None could be detected in cyanobacteria. No enzymatic activity from the rate-limiting acyl-CoA dehydrogenase/oxidase could be detected in cyanobacterial extracts. It was found that radiolabeled fatty acids fed to cyanobacteria were utilised for lipid membranes as opposed to being converted to CO2 by respiration or into other compounds by the TCA cycle. An element of the β-oxidation pathway, E. coli acyl-CoA synthetase was ectopically expressed in a strain of cyanobacteria and implications of the introduction of acyl-CoA synthesis were assessed. Finally, the regulation of the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway was investigated. It was determined that under conditions of excess fatty acid, the transcription of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and enoyl-ACP reductase was repressed and acyl-ACP synthetase involved in fatty acid recycling was induced. These results were discussed in relation to fatty acid oxidation and hydrocarbon biosynthesis in other organisms.
Royal Dutch Shell
PhD in Biological Sciences