Fundamental, Systems-Level Understanding of Microbes Relevant to Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Production
Biochemical pathways encoded in microbial genomes [Jonathan Remis, Joint Bioenergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory]
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Genomic Science program, managed within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), supports basic research aimed at identifying the foundational principles that drive biological systems. These principles govern the translation of the genetic code into integrated networks of proteins, enzymes, regulatory elements, and metabolite pools that underlie the functional processes of organisms including microbes and multispecies communities relevant to DOE missions in energy and the environment. To address the DOE mission in sustainable bioenergy development, BER’s Genomic Science program applies the “omics”-driven tools of modern systems biology to the challenges associated with microbial production of bioproducts and advanced biofuels (i.e., biologically synthesized compounds with the potential to serve as energy-dense transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel).
Developing an increased understanding of how biological systems function and translating that knowledge to enhance the production of microbial and plant capabilities form the basis of DOE’s mission in sustainable bioenergy. Harnessing the biosynthetic processing power of the microbial world for producing advanced biofuels and bioproducts will require developing both an expanded set of platform organisms that have appropriate metabolic capabilities and stress tolerance characteristics, as well as a suite of modification tools. To foster this development, the Genomic Science program supports research aimed at understanding the principles that govern the functional properties of bioenergy-relevant organisms at the genomic scale. This endeavor is highly interdisciplinary, spanning multiple fields in biology, systems biology, chemical and metabolic engineering, and computational biology.
Recent progress in understanding biological systems and the ability to manipulate them is largely due to tremendous technological advances in the development of multiomics tools, high-throughput phenotypic screening approaches, and computational modeling methods used to analyze, modify, and select specific functional properties of biological systems. Continued research to understand the physiology and metabolism of unique microbes and advance them toward experimentally tractable organisms or systems presents an opportunity to potentially produce sustainable biofuels and bioproducts derived from lignocellulosic plant biomass or from photosynthetic capture of carbon dioxide (CO2).
U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Biological and Environmental Research