Nima Sedaghatian Rose Hills
Improving the Biosensor Properties of an AraC-Type Transcriptional Activator
The field of metabolic engineering seeks to rationally design microorganisms to produce specific compounds, usually through the heterologous expression of non-native enzymes and modifications to native metabolism. A commonly employed experimental approach is to randomly mutate enzymes of interest and screen for a desired phenotype. However, this method is constrained by limitations in screening the massive primary sequence diversity scientists are now able to generate. Biosensors derived from naturally-occurring transcription factors can provide an efficient alternative to the low-throughput detection methods currently employed, facilitating an in vivo and tunable method of screening. My research in the lab of Dr. Jay Keasling explores the ligand promiscuity and relevant biosensor characteristics of a promiscuous transcription factor from the AraC family, a well known but poorly characterized group of transcriptional regulators. This summer, I plan to analyze the effects of various mutations to the gene encoding the factor as well as its cognate promoter on the sensors efficacy in order to elucidate new insights into the structure and function of the AraC family.