I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology (CMB track) doing my thesis work in the lab of Dr. Martin Jonikas at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Plant Biology on campus. I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011, where I worked in the lab of Dr. Ursula Goodenough, studying the developmental biology of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. I am still studying the same organism in the Jonikas lab, but now I am focused on photosynthesis. Specifically, this alga is able to concentrate inorganic carbon, which allows it to photosynthesize much more efficiently than do most crop plants. I am studying the pyrenoid, the central yet enigmatic organelle to this process. We hope that by understanding the basic biology of the pyrenoid and the carbon concentrating mechanism, we may one day be able to engineer more efficient crop plants.
Education & Certifications
Bachelor of Arts, Washington University, Biology:Biochemistry (2011)
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
I am interested in the cell biology and physiology of a specialized nonmembrane-bound organelle involved in carbon concentration and photosynthesis. This organelle, called the pyrenoid, is responsible for roughly a third of global carbon fixation, yet it is poorly understood. I am using quantitative fluorescence microscopic techniques to investigate the chemical and structural dynamics of this fascinating organelle in the single-celled model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Martin Jonikas, (4/2/2012)
A fluorescence-activated cell sorting-based strategy for rapid isolation of high-lipid Chlamydomonas mutants
2015; 81 (1): 147-159
There is significant interest in farming algae for the direct production of biofuels and valuable lipids. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is the leading model system for studying lipid metabolism in green algae, but current methods for isolating mutants with perturbed lipid content in this organism are slow and tedious. Here, we present the Chlamydomonas High Lipid Sorting (CHiLiS) strategy, which enables enrichment of high-lipid mutants by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) of pooled mutants stained with the lipid-sensitive dye Nile Red. This method only takes five weeks from mutagenesis to mutant isolation. We developed a staining protocol that allows quantitation of lipid content while preserving cell viability. We improved separation of high-lipid mutants from wild-type by using each cell's chlorophyll fluorescence as an internal control. We initially demonstrated 20-fold enrichment of the known high-lipid mutant sta1 from a mixture of sta1 and wild-type cells. We then applied CHiLiS to sort thousands of high-lipid cells from a pool of ~60,000 mutants. Flow cytometry analysis of 24 individual mutants isolated by this approach revealed that ~50% showed a reproducible high lipid phenotype. We further characterized 9 of the mutants with highest lipid content by flame ionization detection and mass spectrometry lipidomics. All mutants analyzed had higher triacylglycerol content and perturbed whole-cell fatty-acid composition. One arbitrarily chosen mutant was evaluated by microscopy, revealing larger lipid droplets than wild-type. The unprecedented throughput of CHiLiS opens the door to a systems-level understanding of green algal lipid biology by enabling genome-saturating isolation of mutants in key genes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
View details for DOI 10.1111/tpj.12682
View details for Web of Science ID 000346918400012
Re-engineering multicloning sites for function and convenience
NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH
2011; 39 (14)
Multicloning sites (MCSs) in standard expression vectors are widely used and thought to be benign, non-interacting elements that exist for mere convenience. However, MCSs impose a necessary distance between promoter elements and genes of interest. As a result, the choice of cloning site defines the genetic context and may introduce significant mRNA secondary structure in the 5'-untranslated region leading to strong translation inhibition. Here, we demonstrate the first performance-based assessment of MCSs in yeast, showing that commonly used MCSs can induce dramatic reductions in protein expression, and that this inhibition is highly promoter and gene dependent. In response, we develop and apply a novel predictive model of structure-based translation inhibition to design improved MCSs for significantly higher and more consistent protein expression. In doing so, we were able to minimize the inhibitory effects of MCSs with the yeast TEF, CYC and GPD promoters. These results highlight the non-interchangeable nature of biological parts and represent the first complete, global redesign of a genetic circuit of such widespread importance as a multicloning site. The improved translational control offered by these designed MCSs is paramount to obtaining high titers of heterologous proteins in eukaryotes and to enabling precise control of genetic circuits.
View details for DOI 10.1093/nar/gkr346
View details for Web of Science ID 000293919600002
View details for PubMedID 21586584