Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

2024 Abstracts

Converting Methoxy Groups on Lignin-Derived Aromatics from a Toxic Hurdle to a Useful Resource: A Systems-Driven Approach


Alexander B. Alleman1*, Akorede L. Seriki1, Alekhya Govindaraju2, Cas Tuson1, Akshat Mall1, Dawson Mathes1, Jeremy A. Draghi3, N. Cecilia Martinez-Gomez2, Andreas E. Vasdekis1, Christopher J. Marx1


1University of Idaho; 2University of California–Berkeley; 3Virginia Institute of Technology


Methoxylated aromatics, originating from lignin hydrolysis, are toxic substrates for many species when consumed at higher concentrations. This is due to their aromaticity and the formaldehyde that is generated internally from the cleavage of methoxy groups. Researchers have discovered novel genetic factors in Methylobacterium involved in methoxylated aromatic metabolism and formaldehyde tolerance. The project has focused on multiple aspects: (1) characterizing the native pathway of vanillate (VA) catabolism in a natural strain of Methylobacterium; (2) expressing the VA pathway into a genetically tractable Methylobacterium strain and using experimental evolution to improve VA utilization; (3) characterizing the aromatic and formaldehyde stress response to VA; and (4) understanding the phenotypic heterogeneity of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) production using synthetic biology and novel single‐cell microscopy. Results have shown that Methylobacterium is a robust system for the utilization of lignin hydrolysis byproducts and their conversion to value-added products.