Announcements

Exceptional opportunities are available for highly motivated candidates with strong publication records, regardless of their specific area of expertise. Preferred backgrounds include: molecular biology, algal biology, photosynthesis metabolism, systems biology of microbial metabolism.

A manuscript describing the Rutgers patented spinel OER catalyst LiCo2O4 has been accepted for publication in Energy & Environmental Science (EES), the highest impact journal in the field of energy sciences. This is a joint publication with collaborators from Proton OnSite. This material has been tested in an alkaline exchange membrane electrolyzer.

“Developing chemical processes that will facilitate mass production of economical, environment-friendly solar and wind electricity is one of the biggest challenges of the energy crisis,” said Dismukes.

In a recent paper inThe Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at Rutgers University and the University of California, San Diego have

Dr. G. Charles Dismukes

G. Charles Dismukes is a member of the faculties of the Departments of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, and of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry as well as a Principal Investigator of the Waksman Institute.


Research Summary

His research interests focus on biological and chemical methods for renewable solar-based fuel production, photosynthesis, metals in biological systems and tools for investigating these systems. His published works describe the biology and chemistry of oxygen production in natural photosynthetic systems, the synthesis and characterization of bio-inspired catalysts for renewable energy production, the use of microorganisms as cell factories for the production of bio-fuels from renewable sources. He is Principal Investigator of the BioSolarH2 team, a multi-institutional research center focusing on microbial hydrogen. We are pursuing two main goals that address both the fundamental science and practical applications of renewable energy production via I) bio-inspired catalysts for H2 + O2 production via water splitting, and II) sustainable biofuels and CO­2 conversion (hydrogen and liquid fuels).

 

Recent Publications

Qian, X, Kim M K, Kumaraswamy KG, Agarwal A, Lun DS, Dismukes CG.  2016.  Flux balance analysis of photoautotrophic metabolism: Uncovering new biological details of subsystems involved in cyanobacterial photosynthesis. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics. :-. AbstractWebsite
We have constructed and experimentally tested a comprehensive genome-scale model of photoautotrophic growth, denoted iSyp821, for the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. iSyp821 incorporates a variable biomass objective function (vBOF), in which stoichiometries of the major biomass components vary according to light intensity. The vBOF was constrained to fit the measured cellular carbohydrate/protein content under different light intensities. iSyp821 provides rigorous agreement with experimentally measured cell growth rates and inorganic carbon uptake rates as a function of light intensity. iSyp821 predicts two observed metabolic transitions that occur as light intensity increases: 1) from PSI-cyclic to linear electron flow (greater redox energy), and 2) from carbon allocation as proteins (growth) to carbohydrates (energy storage) mode. iSyp821 predicts photoautotrophic carbon flux into 1) a hybrid gluconeogenesis-pentose phosphate (PP) pathway that produces glycogen by an alternative pathway than conventional gluconeogenesis, and 2) the photorespiration pathway to synthesize the essential amino acid, glycine. Quantitative fluxes through both pathways were verified experimentally by following the kinetics of formation of 13C metabolites from 13CO2 fixation. iSyp821 was modified to include changes in gene products (enzymes) from experimentally measured transcriptomic data and applied to estimate changes in concentrations of metabolites arising from nutrient stress. Using this strategy, we found that iSyp821 correctly predicts the observed redistribution pattern of carbon products under nitrogen depletion, including decreased rates of CO2 uptake, amino acid synthesis, and increased rates of glycogen and lipid synthesis.
Ananyev, GM, Gates C, Dismukes GC.  2016.  The Oxygen quantum yield in diverse algae and cyanobacteria is controlled by partitioning of flux between linear and cyclic electron flow within photosystem II.. Biochim Biophys Acta.. 1857(9):1380-1391. Abstract
We have measured flash-induced oxygen quantum yields (O2-QYs) and primary charge separation (Chl variable fluorescence yield, Fv/Fm) in vivo among phylogenetically diverse microalgae and cyanobacteria. Higher O2-QYs can be attained in cells by releasing constraints on charge transfer at the Photosystem II (PSII) acceptor side by adding membrane-permeable benzoquinone (BQ) derivatives that oxidize plastosemiquinone QB- and QBH2. This method allows uncoupling PSII turnover from its natural regulation in living cells, without artifacts of isolating PSII complexes. This approach reveals different extents of regulation across species, controlled at the QB- acceptor site. Arthrospira maxima is confirmed as the most efficient PSII-WOC (water oxidizing complex) and exhibits the least regulation of flux. Thermosynechococcus elongatus exhibits an O2-QY of 30%, suggesting strong downregulation. WOC cycle simulations with the most accurate model (VZAD) show that a light-driven backward transition (net addition of an electron to the WOC, distinct from recombination) occurs in up to 25% of native PSIIs in the S2 and S3 states, while adding BQ prevents backward transitions and increases the lifetime of S2 and S3 by 10-fold. Backward transitions occur in PSIIs that have plastosemiquinone radicals in the QB site and are postulated to be physiologically regulated pathways for storing light energy as proton gradient through direct PSII-cyclic electron flow (PSII-CEF). PSII-CEF is independent of classical PSI/cyt-b6f-CEF and provides an alternative proton translocation pathway for energy conversion. PSII-CEF enables variable fluxes between linear and cyclic electron pathways, thus accommodating species-dependent needs for redox and ion-gradient energy sources powered by a single photosystem.
Gates, C, Ananyev GM, Dismukes C.  2016.  The strontium inorganic mutant of the water oxidizing center (CaMn4O5) of PSII improves WOC efficiency but slows electron flux through the terminal acceptors.. Biochim Biophys Acta.. 1857(9):1550-1560. Abstract
Herein we extend prior studies of biosynthetic strontium replacement of calcium in PSII-WOC core particles to characterize whole cells. Previous studies of Thermosynechococcus elongatus found a lower rate of light-saturated O2 from isolated PSII-WOC(Sr) cores and 5–8 × slower rate of oxygen release. We find similar properties in whole cells, and show it is due to a 20% larger Arrhenius activation barrier for O2 evolution. Cellular adaptation to the sluggish PSII-WOC(Sr) cycle occurs in which flux through the QAQB acceptor gate becomes limiting for turnover rate in vivo. Benzoquinone derivatives that bind to QB site remove this kinetic chokepoint yielding 31% greater O2 quantum yield (QY) of PSII-WOC(Sr) vs. PSII-WOC(Ca). QY and efficiency of the WOC(Sr) catalytic cycle are greatly improved at low light flux, due to fewer misses and backward transitions and 3-fold longer lifetime of the unstable S3 state, attributed to greater thermodynamic stabilization of the WOC(Sr) relative to the photoactive tyrosine YZ. More linear and less cyclic electron flow through PSII occurs per PSII-WOC(Sr). The organismal response to the more active PSII centers in Sr-grown cells at 45 °C is to lower the number of active PSII-WOC per Chl, producing comparable oxygen and energy per cell. We conclude that redox and protonic energy fluxes created by PSII are primary determinants for optimal growth rate of T. elongatus. We further conclude that the (Sr-favored) intermediate-spin S = 5/2 form of the S2 state is the active form in the catalytic cycle relative to the low-spin S = 1/2 form.
Vinyard, DJ, Sun JS, Gimpel J, Ananyev GM, Mayfield SP, Dismukes GC.  2016.  Natural isoforms of the Photosystem II D1 subunit differ in photoassembly efficiency of the water-oxidizing complex.. Photosynth Res.. Abstract
Oxygenic photosynthesis efficiency at increasing solar flux is limited by light-induced damage (photoinhibition) of Photosystem II (PSII), primarily targeting the D1 reaction center subunit. Some cyanobacteria contain two natural isoforms of D1 that function better under low light (D1:1) or high light (D1:2). Herein, rates and yields of photoassembly of the Mn4CaO5 water-oxidizing complex (WOC) from the free inorganic cofactors (Mn2+, Ca2+, water, electron acceptor) and apo-WOC-PSII are shown to differ significantly: D1:1 apo-WOC-PSII exhibits a 2.3-fold faster rate-limiting step of photoassembly and up to seven-fold faster rate to the first light-stable Mn3+ intermediate, IM1*, but with a much higher rate of photoinhibition than D1:2. Conversely, D1:2 apo-WOC-PSII assembles slower but has up to seven-fold higher yield, achieved by a higher quantum yield of charge separation and slower photoinhibition rate. These results confirm and extend previous observations of the two holoenzymes: D1:2-PSII has a greater quantum yield of primary charge separation, faster [P680 + Q A - ] charge recombination and less photoinhibition that results in a slower rate and higher yield of photoassembly of its apo-WOC-PSII complex. In contrast, D1:1-PSII has a lower quantum yield of primary charge separation, a slower [P680 + Q A - ] charge recombination rate, and faster photoinhibition that together result in higher rate but lower yield of photoassembly at higher light intensities. Cyanobacterial PSII reaction centers that contain the high- and low-light D1 isoforms can tailor performance to optimize photosynthesis at varying light conditions, with similar consequences on their photoassembly kinetics and yield. These different efficiencies of photoassembly versus photoinhibition impose differential costs for biosynthesis as a function of light intensity.