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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2024-01-01 - 2027-12-31

Methanol is an attractive low-cost substrate for biotechnology that does not need agricultural land for its production and can be produced sustainably from the greenhouse gas CO2. Methylotrophy, i.e. the ability of microorganisms to use methanol as carbon and energy source, has evolved in several groups of bacteria, and in a branch of budding yeasts. In yeasts, the methanol assimilation pathway is encapsulated in peroxisomes which may protect the cytosol from toxic intermediates while in bacteria the processes are cytosolic and the reactions are thoroughly balanced to prevent the accumulation of toxic compounds. Research questions We plan to elucidate the role of compartmentation on the functioning of the methanol metabolism in the naturally methylotrophic yeast Komagataella phaffii, and engineered Escherichia coli, by answering the following research questions: • Why and to which degree is compartmentation essential for methylotrophy in yeast? • Can we establish synthetic methylotrophy in bacteria using an “artificial” methylotrophic organelle? Approach We will re-target the entire assimilation pathway to the cytosol of K. phaffii, and exchange the first enzyme from an O2-dependent oxidase to an NAD+ dependent dehydrogenase to understand if any, or all pathway reactions depend on the peroxisomal localization. Artificial organelles based on bacterial microcompartments will be built to harbor the pathway, and introduced into E. coli to create synthetic E. coli strains with the yeast methanol utilization pathway. Functionality of the pathway variants will be assessed by in vitro and in vivo 13C based metabolomics, and the metabolic network and its interplay will be further balanced by adaptive laboratory evolution.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-06-01 - 2025-05-31

Emissions reductions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement are unachievable without large-scale capture and use of CO2 emissions. VIVALDI offers an innovative integrated solution for the valorisation of CO2 emissions from different biomass-based industrial sectors (pulp/paper, biomass and ethanol) into added-value organic acids. VIVALDI embraces the whole value chain: 1) CO2 capture using a amine-based absorption combined with immobilised carbonic anhydrases 2) electrocatalytical CO2 reduction into C1 building blocks using novel electrode materials and reactor configurations, 3) fermentation of the C1s into organic acids via the Pichia pastoris microbial chassis and 4) recovery of nutrient/trace elements/energy from their own industrial wastewaters using bioelectroconcentration. VIVALDI will profit from the recent research advances of the partners to develop and validate, in strong collaboraton with industry sector, a feasible and sustainable value chain to valorise CO2 into organic acids with different market demands: lactic (already established), itaconic (recently industry-adopted) and 3-hydroxypropionic (still poorly established at industrial scale). Besides the concept, VIVALDI’s strength is the multidisciplinary and complementary consortium: partners with well-known R&D experience, large CO2-producers from each of the industry sectors, early technology adopters, experts in the market of novel solutions and large end-users of the chemical products.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-01-20 - 2021-08-31

Sunlight (UV light) induces the formation of free radicals which cause damage to the collagen fibres in human skin. Premature skin aging is the result. In the epidermis, UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin cell damage and even skin cancer. Unlike humans, some organisms on the Earth are able to protect themselves very well from the negative effects of the sun and from free radicals. True experts in cell protection are microfungi from rocky environments and desert areas, including the Arctic and Antarctic, which are considered the most stress-resistant eukaryotes on Earth. They are able to cope with extreme doses of UV radiation, extreme pH values, salt stress and dehydration, factors that cause considerable stress or even cell death for most known organisms. Biomolecules from those fungi can be of great interest for biotechnology and especially for cosmetic but also for medical and dermatological applications. Therefore, the aim of the present project is to decipher the properties of extracts from the unique rock-colonizing fungi and to investigate their effects on the constituents of human skin cells. Due to its remarkable resistance to UV radiation and ozone, the focus of the present project is the extremotolerant fungus Knufia chersonesos - originally isolated from marble ruins of the ancient city of Chersonesos on the Crimean peninsula. The influence of the fungal extracts on the regeneration of fibroblasts and keratinocytes after exposure to UV and ozone will be investigated by a series of tests on the corresponding cell lines. It will be determined whether the cell extracts have a positive effect as protection against persistent oxidative stress and the associated cell damage. The results are an essential basis for further projects and for the initiation of cooperation with biotech companies in Vienna.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations