Can we treat living systems like ‘Lego’ ? Or is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?
We are increasingly taking a SynBio approach to studying various research questions in the lab; this approach is based on themes such as modularity, abstraction, modelling, and standardisation. This work is typically open-source, sharing standard DNA parts and data with other labs. We have applied SynBio methods to bioremediation, biocatalysis, biosensors, medical biotech, and to design of new cloning vectors.
How do microbes ‘learn’ to metabolise xenobiotic chemicals that are new to the environment? How can we harness the capabilities of microbes to enable cleanup of contaminated sites?
We are working on finding answers to these questions, with a special focus on organochlorine and nitroaromatic pollutants, including solvents and pesticides. We are interested in finding novel microbes, genes and enzymes capable of attacking these compounds, elucidating the metabolic pathways, and understanding the physiology and ecology of the organisms – this knowledge is essential for effective use of these microbes for bioremediation.
Which industrial chemical reactions can be replaced with biochemical reactions? How can we exploit microbes and enzymes to make useful products?
We are especially interested in the reactions of monooxygenases – these enzymes add oxygen to specific locations in organic molecules, yielding alcohols and epoxides. Some monooxygenases act in a highly selective fashion, e.g. making nearly pure single enantiomers of epoxides, which are valuable for pharmaceutical synthesis. Our favourite enzyme is the ethene monooxygenase of Mycobacterium spp, which we are trying to express in more industrially-friendly hosts (e.g. E.coli).
What are the ecological roles of mycobacteria? How can we use them for biotechnology?
The ‘fast-growing’ species of mycobacteria are common in many environments, and known to be important for biodegradation of pollutants. We suspect that these bugs also have important roles in soils, such as influencing plant growth. We are using a mix of ecological, molecular and genomic methods to study these bacteria and developing new genetic tools to help understand mycobacterial gene functions.
How do MGEs work, and how do they impact bacterial evolution? How can we detect and manipulate MGEs to minimise negative effects (e.g. antibiotic resistance) and enhance positive effects (e.g. pollutant degradation)?
MGEs are incredibly powerful tools both for bacteria and for biotechnologists. We are interested in all aspects of these tricky little beasts, but especially in developing new methods for detecting their activities in environmental contexts, and in using them to develop tools for bacteria that currently lack effective genetic manipulation systems. Our favourite MGEs are integrons and catabolic plasmids.
- Synthetic Biology Approaches to Hydrocarbon Biosensors: A Review January 27, 2022No abstract
- The equine hindgut as a reservoir of mobile genetic elements and antimicrobial resistance genes April 26, 2021No abstract
- Biodegradation and Abiotic Degradation of Trifluralin: A Commonly Used Herbicide with a Poorly Understood Environmental Fate August 14, 2020No abstract
- Increased Mutation Rate Is Linked to Genome Reduction in Prokaryotes August 9, 2020No abstract
- Metabolic Engineering of the MEP Pathway in <em>Bacillus subtilis</em> for Increased Biosynthesis of Menaquinone-7 June 29, 2019No abstract
- Microcosm experiments and kinetic modeling of glyphosate biodegradation in soils and sediments December 21, 2018No abstract
- Glyphosate dispersion, degradation, and aquifer contamination in vineyards and wheat fields in the Po Valley, Italy September 18, 2018No abstract
- Heterologous Expression of Mycobacterium Alkene Monooxygenases in Gram-Positive and Gram-Negative Bacterial Hosts May 27, 2018No abstract
- Author Correction: Seasonal total methane depletion in limestone caves April 13, 2018No abstract
- Co-occurrence of genes for aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation of dichloroethane in organochlorine-contaminated groundwater October 18, 2017No abstract
- Seasonal total methane depletion in limestone caves August 18, 2017No abstract
- The influence of the ethane-1,2-diamine ligand on the activity of a monofunctional platinum complex August 10, 2017No abstract
- Bacterial communities associated with apical periodontitis and dental implant failure November 12, 2016No abstract
- A New Catabolic Plasmid in Xanthobacter and Starkeya spp. from a 1,2-Dichloroethane-Contaminated Site June 26, 2016No abstract
- Biochemical and biophysical characterisation of haloalkane dehalogenases DmrA and DmrB in Mycobacterium strain JS60 and their role in growth on haloalkanes April 23, 2015No abstract
- SmoXYB1C1Z of Mycobacterium sp. strain NBB4: a soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO)-like enzyme, active on C2 to C4 alkanes and alkenes July 13, 2014No abstract
- Mutagenesis of the hydrocarbon monooxygenase indicates a metal centre in subunit-C, and not subunit-B, is essential for copper-containing membrane monooxygenase activity April 1, 2014No abstract
- Insertion sequence ISPst4 activates pUC plasmid replication in Pseudomonas stutzeri March 11, 2014No abstract
- Adaptation of a membrane bioreactor to 1,2-dichloroethane revealed by 16S rDNA pyrosequencing and dhlA qPCR November 2, 2013No abstract
- Bacterial communities on food court tables and cleaning equipment in a shopping mall September 22, 2012No abstract