Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Clostridium acetobutylicum regulation with acetylation and butyrylation!

From the title of this blog post (and this great new paper in press at MCP) this sounds really obvious, right?

A bacteria that is famous because it can make really high quantities of industrial chemicals as it grow anaerobically (some of which are shown in the picture above I stole from this great ASM study) regulates itself primarily by the derivatives of the two things it's most famous for producing.  End of story.

However -- what the heck is a butyrylation!?! And just because your metabolic pathways produce weird things that doesn't mean those are great things to control your metabolism with, right? I don't know, I find this study really cool for these reasons

1) This is a super weird way of regulating anything.
2) Lots of people are working with this bacteria and trying to make it make more of these chemicals they produce. Virtually all of the world's acetone and butanol is made from propylene (from fossil fuels). Dirty, inefficient systems that are only functional right now because we're pumping these things out of the ground like they aren't in any way finite. At some point our species might take a step back -- consider that we aren't acting any more intelligently in terms of resource utilization/waste management than log phase E.coli in a swirling flask -- and look at alternative ways of doing things. This bacteria could be a great alternative way of getting a chemicals we take for granted! What was I saying...?

OH YEAH!! But consider this -- microbiology is done by genetics. Knockouts, overexpressions, but -- this awesome paper shows that this isn't how this bacteria regulates itself in terms of fine control -- it's regulating itself for all the important (industrial type production) things with PTMs that even 100x coverage on a Hi-SeQ is not going to show you. You want to REALLY engineer this bacteria? You need to find out what a butyrylation is and how to monitor and regulate that.

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