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

August 17, 2018

New Publication on carbon fixation enhancement in two species of microalgae by attached microbiomes

We observed mutualistic interactions between heterotrophic bacteria and two species of biofuels-relevant microalgae, Nannochloropsis salina and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, mediated by physical association between individual cells.

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Master’s thesis defense

SFA team member Adam Chorazyczewski, a master’s student with Dr. Paul Zimba at Texas A&M successfully defended his master’s thesis entitled “Do phycosphere-associated bacteria affect the growth and lipid accumulation of Phaeodactylum tricornutum.”

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EMSL proposal awarded

SFA team members led by Ty Samo were awarded an EMSL grant entitled “Nano- to microscale characterization of metabolic cooperation facilitated by physical associations between phototrophic microalgae and heterotrophic bacterial symbionts.”

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