iGEM 2011: Wisconsin-Madison

This summer, the UW-Madison iGEM team will be working on streamlining the biofuel discovery and production processes through the use of biosensors. The necessity for sustainable, economical sources of fuel is ever growing, and UW-Madison is a forefront institution in the hunt for such supplies. In association with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), we are creating new E. coli biosensors that can accelerate high throughput screening of potential fuel sources. We’re specifically interested in ethanol and alkane, derived from sources ranging from cellulose to metabolically engineered E. coli.

We have found regulatory systems which respond to each of the biofuels of interest, and are using standard BioBricks assembly to create E. coli strains which can be used to perform fluorescence-based assays. By using fluorescent biosensors, we hope to lower costs (in both equipment and cost-per-sample) while maintaining a high degree of accuracy. In the interest of creating robust and accurate assays, we are also attempting to increase the magnitude and range of the linear fluorescence response through directed evolution. We hope to leverage multiple selections to both decrease basal fluorescence and increase the point where the response becomes saturated.

As a more direct approach to increasing microbial biofuel yields, we also pursued the use of bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) as scaffolding for key enzymes in the ethanol producing and sensing processes. Through localizing crucial anabolic enzymes, as well as the beginning of our sensing cascades, to the BMC surfaces, we can increase fuel titers as well as our reliability in accurately sensing them. However, due to the complexity of this project and the time investment needed, we have stopped work on the BMC. More information can be found on the Microcompartments page.

We hope that when combined our projects will produce a useful toolkit for researchers in and beyond the GLBRC to aid the discovery and engineering of promising fuel sources and processes.

Click here to see our contributions and attributions page.

And here to see our data page.