Erica Dasi

Participant: PROMISE AGEP Research Symposium

dasi

Erica Dasi
Department
: Biological Sciences
Institution: University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)

 

2017 ABSTRACT 

Optimizing Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to utilize butyrate for wastewater treatment

Cultivating algae within wastewater is a promising technology for remediating environmental pollutants and creating renewable energies. While most algae can utilize the nitrogen, phosphates, and simple sugars like acetate that are prevalent in wastewater, few can use butyrate, which is also enriched in sewage effluent. This investigation involves genetically engineering the model green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, to metabolize butyrate. We predict that expressing the Arabidopsis acyl-activating enzyme 7 (AAE7) in C. reinhardtii will be sufficient to complete the pathway for butyrate metabolism, permitting this alga to grow on this substrate while removing it from wastewater. AAE7 was cloned into a plasmid that was integrated into the C. reinhardtii genome. AAE7 protein expression was evaluated by western blot in a transformant that had taken up the plasmid. We observed AAE7 protein in the transgenic C. reinhardtii, suggesting the enzyme had been expressed. Future directions of this work involve performing growth studies to evaluate whether the isolate can use butyrate as a sole nutrient source.

 

2016 ABSTRACT 

Optimizing the green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for wastewater remediation

Cultivating algae within wastewater is a promising technology for remediating environmental pollutants and creating renewable energies. While most algae can utilize the nitrogen, phosphates, and simple sugars like acetate that are prevalent in wastewater, few can use butyrate, which is also enriched in sewage effluent. This investigation involves genetically engineering the alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, to metabolize butyrate, while enhancing its biomass for renewable energy production. Our hypothesis is that expressing the Arabidopsis acyl-activating enzyme 7 (AAE7) in C. reinhardtii will be sufficient to complete the pathway for butyrate metabolism, permitting this alga to grow on this substrate while removing it from wastewater. C. reinhardtii was transformed with a plasmid encoding AAE7, and several isolates that took up the plasmid were assessed for the ability to grow in the presence of butyrate, with and without light. Without light (i.e., no photosynthesis), no growth was observed, while growth decreased as the
concentration of butyrate increased in the presence of light. These results suggest that butyrate is unable to support the growth of the transformants without light and inhibits growth in light. Future experiments involve testing for expression of the AAE7 protein, and modifying our strategy for genetically manipulating C. reinhardtii to express this enzyme.

 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

My name is Erica Dasi and biological sciences Master’s student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Sciences at UMBC. My passion is to help bring clean water to communities worldwide and educate others about environmental issues to increase awareness and foster eco-friendly and sustainable practices.  In previous years, I have served my campus community by actively engaging in environmental educational and outreach programs as an Eco Ambassador and a committee member in the SGA’s Department of Environmental Affairs at UMBC. As a current graduate student with a research focus aimed towards improving water quality, reducing greenhouse emissions, and optimizing renewable energies, I hope to continue serving my community by sharing my knowledge with those around me.

 

GENERAL SUMMARY OF GRADUATE RESEARCH

My research involves optimizing algae for recycling wastewater into renewable energies, such as biofuels or biogas. Within wastewater are nutrients that can (or potentially) support the growth of algae. However, one major flaw of this technology is that few algae can utilize simple sugars like butyrate and propionate, which are prevalent within wastewater. It is therefore important to optimize this technology so that algae can use additional waste to increase algal biomass for renewable energy production. Using basics molecular biology techniques, I am genetically engineering algae to metabolize butyrate to grow and survive in wastewater.

 

SELECTED LIST OF PRESENTATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS

  1. Bringing Back the Smiles of the Bongo District [Talk], Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) Research Day, 2016
  2. Using Laterite – Alumina Composites for Adsorbing Fluoride [Talk], Southern University and A\&M College International Research Experience for Students Research Day, 2016
  3. Optimizing the Green Alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for Wastewater Remediation [Talk], University of Maryland, Baltimore County 38th Annual Graduate Research Conference, 2016
  4. Modification of the Translational Initiation Factor eIF2 in Fish by Phosphorylation [Talk], LMRCSC Research Day, 2015
  5. Regulation of Gene Expression in the Toxic Dinoflagellate, Amphidinium Carterae: Using a Yeast eIF4E Knockout Strain to Assess the Function of Dinoflagellate eIF4Es [Talk], LMRCSC Research Day, 2014

 

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