Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Green algae helps in Advancing Bio-hydrogen

Photosynthetic organisms offer a biological paradigm for the conversion of light energy into chemical forms. Some of these organisms are capable of transducing this energy directly into H2. The green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an example of one such organism that could play a major role in future commercial H2-production system. However, the complexity of the metabolism linked to H2-production pathways in this organism demands the development of a computational model by which to integrate and understand disparate observations over various mutations and environmental conditions.

The grand scientific challenge of creating a complete, in silico simulation of a living cell still faces daunting obstacles. Biomolecular science has proceeded by studying prototypical systems, with the understanding that the knowledge gained is transferable to other systems to some extent. However, for quantitative modeling of a single system, complete knowledge must be available for that particular system to achieve consistency—assuming transferability of knowledge from prototypical systems may lead to fundamental errors in model interpretation.

This project will exploit existing and newly generated knowledge to construct an in silico simulation of metabolism relating to H2 production in C. reinhardtii. It will provide a fundamental understanding of essential metabolic pathways in photosynthetic green algae and enable rational engineering and optimization of those pathways. It will also serve a broader community by providing information critical to understanding other hydrogen metabolizing and fermentative organisms of interest in renewable energy research.

The Department of Energy's mission is to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States. Within the Genomics:GTL program, systems biology has been identified as playing a key role in meeting the Department’s mission. Furthermore, the “hydrogen economy” has been established as an important component in a multi-faceted strategy for energy independence and renewability.

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