BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 1 - Bioderived Materials
What is your research focus?
In Prof. Yi Tang’s lab, one of my current research projects is on using E.coli as a heterologous host to investigate the formation of the pyrrolizidine ring structure in loline alkaloids. The biosynthesis of loline alkaloids involves a combination of PLP dependent tailoring enzymes not commonly seen in natural product biosynthesis. The first step, a PLP dependent gamma substitution reaction between O-acetyl homoserine and L-proline affords a polymerizable intermediate because of its amino and carboxylic acid moieties. The enzyme also has the potential to act as a biocatalyst because of its ability to accept a wide range of proline analogs and different N-heterocycle containing amino acids such as pipecolic acid. This project overlaps well with SET 1: Bioderived Materials because of the application on developing new monomers based on this first intermediate and having the possibility of polymerization of this intermediate in E.coli. Depending on the material properties of the resulting polymers, this project can also overlap with SET 3: Functional Biomimics. Applying my experiments associated with this project to the Biofoundry will help expand the range of substrate analogs and E.coli strain optimization conditions that I can try to improve monomer yield and potentially polymer yield using this PLP dependent gamma-substitution reaction in loline alkaloid biosynthesis.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
BioPACIFIC MIP is an exciting opportunity to understand more about the multidisciplinary field of polymer science and realize its synergy with synthetic biology. By working with state-of-the-art equipment across UCLA and UCSB, I will gain valuable skillsets applicable to many fields in the biotechnology industry. In addition, applying the science from bench to automation system will help me expand the possibilities of my research in characterizing new natural products. Working with other fellows will also increase the chance for future collaboration in the field, which can diversify my experience in the UCLA Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering PhD program. Ultimately, becoming a BioPACIFIC Fellow would provide me with the resources and expertise I need to accomplish my goals in using automation to advance not just the progress in BioPACIFIC MIP but also the broader field of synthetic biology.