Development of Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a chassis for biotechnological applications
The recent surge in biodiesel production has resulted in a huge surplus of crude glycerol, a by-product of the process to the level of 10% by weight. This is turn has caused the price of glycerol to fall dramatically, and there are now few economically viable channels for using this resource: waste glycerol is usually combusted. Therefore, much interest has arisen in the possibility of making use of glycerol with biotechnology, as this would not only be a more efficient use of resources but also make biodiesel itself more commercially viable. The purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris is able to metabolize glycerol through photofermentation and thereby produce hydrogen, a commercially useful commodity. R. palustris is of particular interest for this purpose as, in contrast to many other species which have been investigated with a view to fermenting glycerol, it is highly tolerant of crude glycerol. The feedstock requires little purification or dilution to be made suitable for cultivation of R. palustris. Furthermore, the hydrogen gas produced by R. palustris when grown on glycerol is of high purity, and the organism’s great metabolic diversity suggests it may be a useful strain for remediation of other waste materials. However, much groundwork is needed to establish R. palustris as a viable chassis organism for biotechnological purposes. This work sets out to establish optimal conditions for cultivating R. palustris in the laboratory, including the design of a suitable batch photobioreactor system. It also determines optimal conditions for electroporation of R. palustris for the purpose of knocking out endogenous genes or introducing heterologous genes. Furthermore, the introduction of heterologous genes is attempted in order to demonstrate the possibility of producing other high-value compounds with R. palustris, and several deletion strains with potential benefits for hydrogen production are created. Finally, several existing deletion strains are investigated to establish their suitability as chassis strains for further genetic manipulation.