Metabolic engineer fascinated by the design and construction of the next-generation microbial cell factories for the efficient bio-manufacture of chemicals.
I am currently working in two main research projects, both of which are rooted in metabolic engineering of P. putida. My first project is the re-shaping of central metabolism in P. putida for White Biotechnology purposes (REWIRE). P. putida KT2440 is naturally endowed with a number of metabolic and stress-endurance qualities which have extraordinary value for biotechnological and bioremediation applications. However, like many other Pseudomonas species and rhizosymbionts, it has an incomplete and energetically sub-optimal glycolytic pathway and glucose metabolism occurs through a cyclic combination of activities (EDEMP cycle) belonging to the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas, Entner-Doudoroff (ED), and pentose phosphate pathways. The processing of glucose via the ED pathway and the EDEMP cycle yields one less ATP molecule. This fact, coupled with the existence of a regulatory architecture of glucose catabolism poorly understood and a glucose uptake energetically quite expensive (more than that in other bacteria), prompted us to examine the issue in REWIRE. We are undertaking a deep genetic and metabolic engineering of P. putida KT2440 with the aim of designing a re-factored version of the microorganism able to use efficiently glucose as the main carbon and energy source, with the highest possible yield of ATP on sugars. In connection to this re-factoring of central carbon metabolism, in a second project I am designing novel pathways for the production of novel aromatic compounds. Aromatic molecules have numerous applications in the food, feed, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries, but they are mainly synthetized from non-renewable precursors in chemical processes that operate under harsh conditions (i.e., with toxic precursors, high temperatures and pressures, complex catalysts). P. putida is highly tolerant to organic solvents and, therefore, an ideal microbial cell factory for the production of this type of compounds. In this project, we are adopting metabolic engineering approaches to engineer P. putida KT2440 to diversify the spectrum of aromatics and related compounds that can be produced in this bacterial platform.