Fuzhong Zhang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program

  • 314-935-7671

  • 314-935-7985

  • 314-935-7211

  • 1180

  • Brauer Hall 1022

  • FZhang29@WUSTL.EDU

  • http://zhang.eece.wustl.edu/

  • Synthetic biology, Metabolic engineering, regulatory systems, cellular biosensor, biofuels, biomaterials

  • Engineering synthetic regulatory systems for metabolic control, design cellular biosensors, engineering new pathways for the production of pharmaceuticals, biofuels, and chemicals.

Research Abstract:

Cellular biosensor:
Cellular biosensors are biological parts that detect either environmental or intracellular signals recognizable to host cells. Such biosensor can be employed to control cell behavior to achieve various tasks, such as producing biofuels, cleaning environmental contaminants, regulating expression of specific genes. Our strategy to develop cellular biosensors mainly focuses on using protein engineering approaches. We start from some naturally occurring proteins and use the combination of rational design and high throughput screening (HTS) to engineer sensors. We also use computational protein design and HTS to create artificial protein-based sensors.

Dynamic Regulatory Systems:
When engineering microbes to produce biofuels or other value-added chemicals, it is essential to have high productivity and conversion yield to make such technology economically viable. One powerful strategy to increase productivity/yield is to design dynamic regulatory systems, by which a microbial cell regulates metabolic pathways according to its own metabolism dynamically. We aim to apply cellular biosensors and construct dynamic regulatory systems at several levels to regulate metabolic pathways and to understand how such system works. We are also interested in developing dynamic systems to control other cellular behaviors.

Advanced Biofuels:
To meet the increasing demands of sustainable transportation energy, we aim to engineer microbes to produce advanced biofuels that could be readily used in current engines. One of the biggest challenges is to biosynthesize non-natural molecules that have structures exactly the same or highly similar to the fuels currently derived from petroleum. We are engineering enzymes and constructing novel metabolic pathways to produce these compounds. In addition, we are also developing synthetic biology tools to improve the titer, yield, and productivity of the advanced biofuels.

Selected Publications:

Xiao Y., Bowen C.H., Liu D., Zhang F., Exploiting non-genetic, cell-to-cell variation for enhanced biosynthesis. Nat Chem Biol 12, 339-344, (2016).

Bentley G.J., Jiang W., Xiao Y., Zhang F., Engineering Escherichia coli to Produce Branched-chain Fatty Acids in High Percentages. Metab Eng 38,148-158 (2016).

Bowen C.H., Bonin J., Kogler A., Barba-Ostria C., Zhang F., Engineering Escherichia coli for conversion of glucose to medium-chain ω-hydroxy fatty acids and α,ω-dicarboxylic acids. ACS Synth Biol. 5(3), 200-206, (2016).

Zhang, F., Carothers, J.M., Keasling, J.D., Design of a dynamic sensor-regulator system for production of chemicals and fuels derived from fatty acids. Nat Biotechnol, 30, (4), 354-359 (2012)

Last Updated: 8/29/2016 4:29:44 PM

Microbial population control (cover issue of Nat Chem Biol)
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