Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

A Systems Biology Approach to Interactions and Resource Allocation in Bioenergy-Relevant Microbial Communities

The LLNL Biofuels Scientific Focus Area (SFA) is focused on the community systems biology of microbial consortia that are closely associated with bioenergy-relevant plants and algae, with the ultimate goal of developing predictive models. Photosynthetic algal and plant systems have the unrivaled advantage of converting solar energy and CO2 into useful organic molecules. Their growth and efficiency are largely shaped and assisted by their surrounding “microbiome”—the groups of microorganisms that dwell in and around plants and algae and live off photosynthate, exopolymers, or exudates. The biogeochemical outcomes of these interactions—how specific taxonomic combinations affect energy and nutrient cycling pathways and are shaped by various environmental stressors—are fundamental concerns in the fields of microbial ecology and bioenergy production.

We seek to understand and predict ecological, biophysical, and biochemical dynamics of multi-taxa communities, as well as the metabolite fluxes that regulate trophic interactions. In our research, we focus on microscale interactions between bacteria and algae in the phycosphere (the surface of algal cells) and between soil bacteria, fungi, and plant roots in the rhizosphere as model systems. Our approach emphasizes microbial ecology, organismal interactions, quantitative isotope tracing of elemental exchanges, and effects of environmental regulation, using techniques that exploit unique LLNL capabilities to measure the microscale impacts of single cells on system scale processes.

News Highlights

October 24, 2019

STEM and nanoSIMS imaging

New Publication on Mn imaging and metabolism in model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

SFA team members contributed to an investigation led by Sabeeha Merchant’s group on Mn metabolism in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii recently published in J. Biol. Chem.

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Book cover

New Book Chapter on ChipSIP method published

SFA team members recently published a book chapter on the SFA-developed method Chip-SIP.

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NanoSIMS mapping

New SFA-synergistic publication on imaging surface Fe distribution from dust in a globally relevant nitrogen-fixing microbe

As part of a synergistic LDRD-funded project, SFA team members R. Stuart and P. Weber contributed to a recent publication relevant to our SFA trace metal imaging methods development efforts.

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