FURI | Spring 2024

Utilizing Substrate Specific Polyol Phosphatases for Enhanced Photosynthetic Sorbitol Production in Cyanobacteria

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Sustainable and environmentally friendly sorbitol production has become an important challenge in this day and age. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol used in the food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries and has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as a target chemical for sustainable production. Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, a photoautotrophic microorganism, has been identified as a successful industrial strain for biochemical production due to its high growth rate and ability to grow in salty water, and it can be engineered to produce sorbitol using carbon dioxide, water, and light. Currently, microbial production of sorbitol is not economical because the titer, rate, and yield cannot compete with petrochemical processes. Furthermore, promiscuous enzymes in the sorbitol biosynthetic pathway exacerbate this problem. In order to overcome this hurdle, more substrate-specific enzymes need to be explored and characterized to increase sorbitol production rate and yield in PCC 7002.

Student researcher

Pranav Anandasai Bhavaraju

Chemical engineering

Hometown: Denver, Colorado, United States

Graduation date: Spring 2026