Dipali Singh

Metabolic models of Phaeodactylum tricornutum.

Energy demand has increased tremendously over last decades and continuous use of fossils fuels to meet this demand has not only depleted the fossil fuels but has also raised concerns regarding global climate change. Therefore, there is need to find alternative source of energy in order to meet the future energy demand and to protect the global environment.

Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a species of diatom, is a single celled organism which can use light energy and CO2 from the environment to produce useful storage products. They contribute up to 40% of organic matter production in the ocean and have the capability to store lipid which makes them an important candidate for exploitation and raises new possibilities to increase algal oil production. However, we need to understand their metabolism, to manipulate their pathways and to optimise quantity and composition of lipid, in order to make them an economically valid alternative source of energy.

The technique used in this project, to understand the metabolism of diatoms, is to construct a genome scale metabolic model (GSM) which describes the reaction networks predicted from enzymes encoded by the genome. This allows us to
predict the essential reactions involved with particular pathways and to optimise the pathways for the production of useful products.

The goal of this project is to construct a GSM of Phaeodactylum tricornutum by identifying all the enzymes of metabolism that are encoded in the genome and to refine the model so that it is biologically relevant. The model will be analysed for underlying biological properties and behaviour of system under various conditions such as varying light intensities, energy demand and stress conditions. Based on this analysis, strategies will be developed to identify optimised pathways for lipid production and experiments will be designed to test such strategies.