Turning Bacteria into Electrotrophs to Identify Changes that Influence Extracellular Electron Uptake
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Electrotrophs are bacteria that can accept pure electrons into the cell from electrodes. When a current is run through them, the electrons obtained are directed primarily to the production of extracellular metabolic byproducts, making them an attractive method of chemical production whether that be heavy hydrocarbons, plastics or medicine. They have multiple other real-life applications such as, remediating the environment, as well as increasing electricity production in microbial fuel cells. However, these mechanisms are unknown and the efficiency is typically very low.
E.Coli K12 - which normally exhibits low electrotrophic properties - were put in specially designed microbial electrosynthesis cells (MES) and mutated through environmental pressures to increase their electron uptake efficiency. To measure this, the rate of metabolic byproduct production was measured using a high-performance liquid chromatograph, and the current measured.
Three variations of MESs were run simultaneously. Abiotic MESs were used to act as the control. MESs with an added chemical mutagen was tested to mutate the E.Coli genetic makeup in hopes that it would increase electron uptake capabilities. Furthermore, MESs without an added mutagen were also tested to examine if changes in gene expression would affect electron uptake efficiency.
To analyze these changes, the entire genome of electrotroph mutant is to be extracted and sequenced using next-gen sequencing systems. They will then be compared against wild-type E.Coli K12 to find differences.