“SulfoSYSBIOTEC Applied Sulfolobus Systems Biology: Exploiting the hot archaeal metabolic potential for Biotechnology

The metabolism of the Archaea, the third domain of life, is characterized by many “new” unique enzymes that differ from their bacterial and eukaryal counterparts. Despite this fabulous wealth of new biocatalysts, Archaea are not commercially exploited so far and the complexity of the archaeal metabolism is still far from being understood.

Within the e:Bio - Innovationswettbewerb Systembiologie (Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)), the SulfoSYSBIOTECH consortium (10 partners), aim to unravel the complexity and regulation of the carbon metabolic network of the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus (optimal growth at 80°C and pH 3) in order to provide new catalysts ‘extremozymes’ for utilization in White Biotechnology.

Based on the available S. solfataricus genome scale metabolic model (Ulas et al., 2012) the project will iteratively combine state of the art high throughput approaches (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics), bioinformatics, modelling, data management and classical microbiology, biochemistry as well as genetic/ molecular biology techniques. The growth of S. solfataricus on ‘alternative’ carbon sources (e.g. polymers, pentoses, sugar acids, aldehydes) will be analysed to elucidate the respective degradation pathways and to identify the involved enzymes; using this functional systems biology approach we expect to identify new enzymes of industrial interest. In collaboration with the industrial project partners target enzymes will be selected and screened for their potential for application (e.g. production efficiency). The initial focus will be on enzymes involved in the production of stereospecific base and fine chemicals and biomass conversion. The increasing knowledge of archaeal metabolic networks with respect to cellular blueprints, their complexity and regulation will be a major resource for a continuous stream of new applications.