Metabolic engineering of photosynthetic organisms is a main area of investigation for our research group. To understand how photosynthetic organisms control the rates of metabolic pathways that convert CO2 and inorganic nitrogen into all the metabolites necessary for growth is of fundamental importance. Previously, we have performed metabolic flux analysis on the model photosynthetic organism, Synechocystis PCC 6308, to determine the engagement of the central metabolic pathways. Applications of altering metabolism of plants are foods with increased nutritional value, crops with increased stress resistance, and even production of specialty chemicals and materials. For our other modeling project 13C-MFA analysis was applied to a mammalian system (Chinese Hamster Ovary cells) and fluxes were quantified to evaluate the recombinant protein production.

Recently, a kinetic model for phenylpropanoid pathway in Petunia hybrida (flower) was developed employing d5-phenylalanine labeling and used for prediction of metabolism in a mutant (Colon et al., 2010). Further, experimental methods for compartment specific labeling information were adapted from literature, and applied to Snapdragon (a flower) for 13C-MFA. This information will be subsequently used to quantify fluxes, over the development of the flower.

Our current research efforts are directed towards developing a kinetic model to mechanistically characterize the lignin biosynthesis (phenylpropanoid pathway) in Arabidopsis thaliana. Using the model we intend to determine the effect of perturbations on the carbon flux towards monolignol compounds. Eventually, we intend to propose plausible experiments for manipulating carbon flux towards monolignols for accumulating candidate bio-fuel molecules like 2-phenylethanol.