The Dark Side of the Cyanobacterium - Massive Mutants Screens on a Model Photosynthetic Organism

Dr Benjamin E. Rubin
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
2 June 2017 - 3:00pm
Rountree Room 356, Level 3, Biological Sciences Building D26

Understanding of the light-driven lifestyle is often extrapolated from research on tractable non-photosynthetic organisms. However, this approach leaves many holes and misinterpretations in our perception of photosynthesis. This seminar will describe the use of next generation sequencing paired with massive collections of mutants to elucidate genetic unknowns of model photosynthetic cyanobacteria Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942. The approach allowed for the first genome wide analysis of gene importance in a photosynthetic organism, and the global determination of essential intergenic regions. It has also served as a powerful dataset for the development of a genome wide metabolic model, which in turn revealed unique facets of S. elongatus biology. Finally, the screening of the library under approximately 50 conditions has resulted in the identification of hundreds of key genes involved in a variety of functions including biofilm formation, predator resistance, and dark survival. This genome wide dataset of the essential and conditionally relevant loci of S. elongatus both improves our understanding of the organisms’ physiology, and more generally allows biological processes to be viewed through a photosynthetic lens.

Biography: The speaker grew up in California, before majoring in Economics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Middlebury College in Vermont. At this point he became fascinated by the potential of photosynthesis to address the intimately linked issues of food and energy. After finishing his Bachelor’s degree, and a brief stint thawing off in Hawaii as a marine biologist, Ben moved to San Diego to work at a biofuels start-up, and eventually to pursue a PhD at UCSD. There he worked in Professor Susan Golden’s Laboratory on the photosynthetic model organism and promising bioproduction organism, Cyanobacteria. In his free time Ben surfs, runs, dances salsa, and reads.