Coordinated response and regulation of carotenogenesis in Thermosynechococcus elongatus (BP-1) : implications for commercial application
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If small isoprenoids, the starting component of carotenoids, can be efficiently excreted from thermophilic cyanobacteria, they could help satisfy the demand for sustainably produced hydrocarbons. This is the driving force behind wanting to understand the response and regulation of isoprenoid pathways to environmental stimuli in the thermophilic cyanobacterium, Thermosynechococcus elongatus, BP-1. The portion of the isoprenoid pathway studied here is the carotenoid pathway since these products are critical to adaptation and they encompass the largest pool of isoprenoid compounds in cyanobacteria. Although synthetic biology in cyanboacteria has improved in recent years, there are many undiscovered metabolic complexities that make large-scale commercial production challenging. To address this need, I quantify and report for the first time metabolic shifts within the carotenoid pathway of BP-1 due to combined effects of temperature, pH and blue light. I show that metabolism shifts from the dicyclic into the monocyclic carotenoid pathway in response to pH, and that decreasing temperature drives flux into the end products of both pathways. Also, I report that the productivity of an uncommon carotenoid, 2-hydroxymyxol 2’-fucoside (HMF), approached 500 μg/L-day in cultures grown at 45 °C, high light intensity, and pH 8. In order to further elucidate these responses, I analyzed 42 RNAseq samples taken over time of BP-1 induced by cold and heat stress and compared these results to metabolomics data. I showed that crtR and crtG, two central carotenogenesis genes, are transcriptionally controlled and used weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) to determine eight separate co-expressed modules of biological significance. Among the co-regulated heat response and cold response genes there were three and five non-coding RNA, respectively, providing targets for future investigation. Using subtractive genomics and transcriptional data I narrowed the potential missing steps of the myxol pathway in cyanobacteria to seven unknown BP-1 genes, two of which were confirmed not to be involved in the missing step(s). Finally, by generating a ΔcrtG mutant and testing it under different environmental parameters, I showed that HMF does not protect against high pH or low temperature (despite up-regulation at these conditions), and that CrtG has a higher affinity for monocyclic than dicyclic carotenoids.