Quantifying metabolic fluxes to biofuel compounds in plants

Interdisciplinary Areas: Data and Engineering Applications

Project Description

Numerous plant metabolites are valuable for their medicinal, nutraceutical, sensory or biofuel properties. Recently, significant progress has been made in the identification of the genes and enzymes of plant metabolic pathways. Hence, there is enormous potential in applying synthetic biology to enhance the production of targeted valuable metabolites. We propose to examine the contribution that various metabolic pathways have on informing the rational selection of metabolic engineering targets as well as analysis of carbon and energy efficiency. Compared to microbes, plants have more complex tissue, cellular and subcellular organization, making precise metabolite concentration measurements more challenging. Therefore, we will employ 13C tracers to decipher metabolic fluxes leading towards valuable aromatic compounds.

Start Date


Postdoc Qualifications

Previous laboratory experience with molecular cloning, aseptic growth of microorganisms, protein purification, enzyme assays. Transformation of plants, genetics, gene expression analysis. Analytical chemistry techniques of LC/MS and GC/MS. Mathematical modeling of transport and/or metabolism in plants is desired, but not required.
Strong writing and oral presentation skills to communicate with colleagues the results of research. 
Ability to train graduate and undergraduate students.
Works well in a team based research environment. 
Can work independently when necessary.
John A. Morgan, jamorgan@purdue.edu; Professor, Davidson School of Chemical Engineering
Natalia Dudareva, dudareva@purdue.edu; Professor, Department of Biochemistry
1. Metabolic flux analysis of secondary metabolism in plants
ML Shih, JA Morgan Metabolic engineering communications 10, e00123 (2020)
2. Modeling plant metabolism: from network reconstruction to mechanistic models. TJ Clark, L Guo, J Morgan, J Schwender
Annual review of plant biology 71, 303-326 (2020)
3. Completion of the cytosolic post-chorismate phenylalanine biosynthetic pathway in plants. Y Qian, JH Lynch, L Guo, D Rhodes, JA Morgan, N Dudareva
Nature communications 10, 1-15 (2019)
4. A 13 C isotope labeling method for the measurement of lignin metabolic flux in Arabidopsis stems. P Wang, L Guo, R Jaini, A Klempien, RM McCoy, JA Morgan, N Dudareva, C Chapple. Plant methods 14 (1), 1-15. (2018)