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Biodegradation and production microbiomes

This project, in collaboration with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), focuses on the editing of lignin-degrading microbiomes. The ability to implement targeted DNA editing in JBEI microbiomes will facilitate improved genetic understanding and control of these microbial communities for biodegradation and production. 

An abstract illustration of a plier holding a microbe in front of a bioreactor
Soil microbial editing

This work will build on previously successful editing of soil microbiomes in our lab. Using CRISPR-based editing within bacterial hosts, we hope to investigate the interactions and activities of microbes within rhizosphere communities. In the longer term, this engineering should allow improved plant growth on marginal soils.

An abstract illustration of a wrench holding a microbe in front of an abstract plant root
Decreasing livestock methane emissions through editing

Editing the DNA of livestock gut microbes has the potential to decrease methane emissions using highly targeted modifications, replacing blunter breeding and feeding strategies. Ongoing work will optimize these tools from their previously validated use on gut microbes in the lab so that they can be efficiently deployed to livestock in the field.

An abstract illustration of a wrench holding a microbe in front of a cow microbiome
Gut microbiome editing for improved health

We aim to harness new DNA delivery and editing systems, along with those we have previously developed, for efficient modification of microbes within human guts. The development of highly targeted and efficient gene editing tools in the gut microbiome should expand the causal understanding of the role of genes in this fundamentally important community. The work should also help shift the medical intervention standard from the sledgehammer of antibiotics to the scalpel of targeted DNA editing.

All illustrations created by Chenyu Zhang!

An abstract illustration of a wrench holding a bacteria in front of the human gut microbiome
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