Professional Education

  • Master of Science, University of Michigan Ann Arbor (2017)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Michigan Ann Arbor (2017)

All Publications

  • Growth rate-dependent coordination of catabolism and anabolism in the archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis under phosphate limitation. The ISME journal Gu, W., Muller, A. L., Deutzmann, J. S., Williamson, J. R., Spormann, A. M. 2022


    Catabolic and anabolic processes are finely coordinated in microorganisms to provide optimized fitness under varying environmental conditions. Understanding this coordination and the resulting physiological traits reveals fundamental strategies of microbial acclimation. Here, we characterized the system-level physiology of Methanococcus maripaludis, a niche-specialized methanogenic archaeon, at different dilution rates ranging from 0.09 to 0.003h-1 in chemostat experiments under phosphate (i.e., anabolic) limitation. Phosphate was supplied as the limiting nutrient, while formate was supplied in excess as the catabolic substrate and carbon source. We observed a decoupling of catabolism and anabolism resulting in lower biomass yield relative to catabolically limited cells at the same dilution rates. In addition, the mass abundance of several coarse-grained proteome sectors (i.e., combined abundance of proteins grouped based on their function) exhibited a linear relationship with growth rate, mostly ribosomes and their biogenesis. Accordingly, cellular RNA content also correlated with growth rate. Although the methanogenesis proteome sector was invariant, the metabolic capacity for methanogenesis, measured as methane production rates immediately after transfer to batch culture, correlated with growth rate suggesting translationally independent regulation that allows cells to only increase catabolic activity under growth-permissible conditions. These observations are in stark contrast to the physiology of M. maripaludis under formate (i.e., catabolic) limitation, where cells keep an invariant proteome including ribosomal content and a high methanogenesis capacity across a wide range of growth rates. Our findings reveal that M. maripaludis employs fundamentally different strategies to coordinate global physiology during anabolic phosphate and catabolic formate limitation.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41396-022-01278-9

    View details for PubMedID 35780255

  • Influence of pH and electrolyte on the deposition of cerium oxide nanoparticles on supported lipid bilayers ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE-NANO Gu, W., Liu, X., Yi, P. 2022

    View details for DOI 10.1039/d2en00066k

    View details for Web of Science ID 000790831800001

  • Two TonB-Dependent Transporters in Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b Are Responsible for Uptake of Different Forms of Methanobactin and Are Involved in the Canonical "Copper Switch". Applied and environmental microbiology Peng, P., Kang-Yun, C. S., Chang, J., Gu, W., DiSpirito, A. A., Semrau, J. D. 2022; 88 (1): e0179321


    Copper is an important component of methanotrophic physiology, as it controls the expression and activity of alternative forms of methane monooxygenase (MMO). To collect copper, some methanotrophs secrete a chalkophore- or copper-binding compound called methanobactin (MB). MB is a ribosomally synthesized posttranslationally modified polypeptide (RiPP) that, after binding copper, is collected by MbnT, a TonB-dependent transporter (TBDT). Structurally different forms of MB have been characterized, and here, we show that different forms of MB are collected by specific TBDTs. Further, we report that in the model methanotroph, Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b, expression of the TBDT required for uptake of a different MB made by Methylocystis sp. strain SB2 (MB-SB2) is induced in the presence of MB-SB2, suggesting that methanotrophs have developed specific machinery and regulatory systems to actively take up MB from other methanotrophs for copper collection. Moreover, the canonical "copper switch" in M. trichosporium OB3b that controls expression of alternative MMOs is apparent if one of the two TBDTs required for MB-OB3b and MB-SB2 uptake is knocked out, but is disrupted if both TBDTs are knocked out. These data indicate that MB uptake, including the uptake of exogenous MB, plays an important role in the copper switch in M. trichosporium OB3b and, thus, overall activity. Based on these data, we propose a revised model for the copper switch in this methanotroph that involves MB uptake. IMPORTANCE In this study, we demonstrate that different TBDTs in the model methanotroph Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b are responsible for uptake of either endogenous MB or exogenous MB. Interestingly, the presence of exogenous MB induces expression of its specific TBDT in M. trichosporium OB3b, suggesting that this methanotroph is able to actively take up MB produced by others. This work contributes to our understanding of how microbes collect and compete for copper and also helps inform how such uptake coordinates the expression of different forms of methane monooxygenase. Such studies are likely to be very important to develop a better understanding of methanotrophic interactions via synthesis and secretion of secondary metabolites such as methanobactin and thus provide additional means whereby these microbes can be manipulated for a variety of environmental and industrial purposes.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.01793-21

    View details for PubMedID 34669437

  • MbnC Is Not Required for the Formation of the N-Terminal Oxazolone in the Methanobactin from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Dershwitz, P., Gu, W., Roche, J., Kang-Yun, C. S., Semrau, J. D., Bobik, T. A., Fulton, B., Zischka, H., DiSpirito, A. A. 2022; 88 (2): e0184121


    Methanobactins (MBs) are ribosomally synthesized and posttranslationally modified peptides (RiPPs) produced by methanotrophs for copper uptake. The posttranslational modification that defines MBs is the formation of two heterocyclic groups with associated thioamines from X-Cys dipeptide sequences. Both heterocyclic groups in the MB from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b (MB-OB3b) are oxazolone groups. The precursor gene for MB-OB3b is mbnA, which is part of a gene cluster that contains both annotated and unannotated genes. One of those unannotated genes, mbnC, is found in all MB operons and, in conjunction with mbnB, is reported to be involved in the formation of both heterocyclic groups in all MBs. To determine the function of mbnC, a deletion mutation was constructed in M. trichosporium OB3b, and the MB produced from the ΔmbnC mutant was purified and structurally characterized by UV-visible absorption spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. MB-OB3b from the ΔmbnC mutant was missing the C-terminal Met and was also found to contain a Pro and a Cys in place of the pyrrolidinyl-oxazolone-thioamide group. These results demonstrate MbnC is required for the formation of the C-terminal pyrrolidinyl-oxazolone-thioamide group from the Pro-Cys dipeptide, but not for the formation of the N-terminal 3-methylbutanol-oxazolone-thioamide group from the N-terminal dipeptide Leu-Cys. IMPORTANCE A number of environmental and medical applications have been proposed for MBs, including bioremediation of toxic metals and nanoparticle formation, as well as the treatment of copper- and iron-related diseases. However, before MBs can be modified and optimized for any specific application, the biosynthetic pathway for MB production must be defined. The discovery that mbnC is involved in the formation of the C-terminal oxazolone group with associated thioamide but not for the formation of the N-terminal oxazolone group with associated thioamide in M. trichosporium OB3b suggests the enzymes responsible for posttranslational modification(s) of the two oxazolone groups are not identical.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.01841-21

    View details for Web of Science ID 000748723400020

    View details for PubMedID 34731053

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8788703

  • Evidence for methanobactin "Theft" and novel chalkophore production in methanotrophs: impact on methanotrophic-mediated methylmercury degradation. The ISME journal Kang-Yun, C. S., Liang, X., Dershwitz, P., Gu, W., Schepers, A., Flatley, A., Lichtmannegger, J., Zischka, H., Zhang, L., Lu, X., Gu, B., Ledesma, J. C., Pelger, D. J., DiSpirito, A. A., Semrau, J. D. 2021


    Aerobic methanotrophy is strongly controlled by copper, and methanotrophs are known to use different mechanisms for copper uptake. Some methanotrophs secrete a modified polypeptide-methanobactin-while others utilize a surface-bound protein (MopE) and a secreted form of it (MopE*) for copper collection. As different methanotrophs have different means of sequestering copper, competition for copper significantly impacts methanotrophic activity. Herein, we show that Methylomicrobium album BG8, Methylocystis sp. strain Rockwell, and Methylococcus capsulatus Bath, all lacking genes for methanobactin biosynthesis, are not limited for copper by multiple forms of methanobactin. Interestingly, Mm. album BG8 and Methylocystis sp. strain Rockwell were found to have genes similar to mbnT that encodes for a TonB-dependent transporter required for methanobactin uptake. Data indicate that these methanotrophs "steal" methanobactin and such "theft" enhances the ability of these strains to degrade methylmercury, a potent neurotoxin. Further, when mbnT was deleted in Mm. album BG8, methylmercury degradation in the presence of methanobactin was indistinguishable from when MB was not added. Mc. capsulatus Bath lacks anything similar to mbnT and was unable to degrade methylmercury either in the presence or absence of methanobactin. Rather, Mc. capsulatus Bath appears to rely on MopE/MopE* for copper collection. Finally, not only does Mm. album BG8 steal methanobactin, it synthesizes a novel chalkophore, suggesting that some methanotrophs utilize both competition and cheating strategies for copper collection. Through a better understanding of these strategies, methanotrophic communities may be more effectively manipulated to reduce methane emissions and also enhance mercury detoxification in situ.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41396-021-01062-1

    View details for PubMedID 34290379

  • Towards a Biomanufactory on Mars FRONTIERS IN ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCES Berliner, A. J., Hilzinger, J. M., Abel, A. J., McNulty, M. J., Makrygiorgos, G., Averesch, N. H., Sen Gupta, S., Benvenuti, A., Caddell, D. F., Cestellos-Blanco, S., Doloman, A., Friedline, S., Ho, D., Gu, W., Hill, A., Kusuma, P., Lipsky, I., Mirkovic, M., Meraz, J., Pane, V., Sander, K. B., Shi, F., Skerker, J. M., Styer, A., Valgardson, K., Wetmore, K., Woo, S., Xiong, Y., Yates, K., Zhang, C., Zhen, S., Bugbee, B., Clark, D. S., Coleman-Derr, D., Mesbah, A., Nandi, S., Waymouth, R. M., Yang, P., Criddle, C. S., McDonald, K. A., Seefeldt, L. C., Menezes, A. A., Arkin, A. P. 2021; 8
  • In situ electrochemical H-2 production for efficient and stable power-to-gas electromethanogenesis (vol 22, pg 6194, 2020) GREEN CHEMISTRY Kracke, F., Deutzmann, J. S., Gu, W., Spormann, A. M. 2021

    View details for DOI 10.1039/d1gc90069b

    View details for Web of Science ID 000670547200001

  • An alternative resource allocation strategy in the chemolithoautotrophic archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Muller, A. L., Gu, W., Patsalo, V., Deutzmann, J. S., Williamson, J. R., Spormann, A. M. 2021; 118 (16)


    Most microorganisms in nature spend the majority of time in a state of slow or zero growth and slow metabolism under limited energy or nutrient flux rather than growing at maximum rates. Yet, most of our knowledge has been derived from studies on fast-growing bacteria. Here, we systematically characterized the physiology of the methanogenic archaeon Methanococcus maripaludis during slow growth. M. maripaludis was grown in continuous culture under energy (formate)-limiting conditions at different dilution rates ranging from 0.09 to 0.002 h-1, the latter corresponding to 1% of its maximum growth rate under laboratory conditions (0.23 h-1). While the specific rate of methanogenesis correlated with growth rate as expected, the fraction of cellular energy used for maintenance increased and the maintenance energy per biomass decreased at slower growth. Notably, proteome allocation between catabolic and anabolic pathways was invariant with growth rate. Unexpectedly, cells maintained their maximum methanogenesis capacity over a wide range of growth rates, except for the lowest rates tested. Cell size, cellular DNA, RNA, and protein content as well as ribosome numbers also were largely invariant with growth rate. A reduced protein synthesis rate during slow growth was achieved by a reduction in ribosome activity rather than via the number of cellular ribosomes. Our data revealed a resource allocation strategy of a methanogenic archaeon during energy limitation that is fundamentally different from commonly studied versatile chemoheterotrophic bacteria such as E. coli.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2025854118

    View details for PubMedID 33879571

  • Enhancement of Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Soil Microbial Consortia via Copper Competition between Proteobacterial Methanotrophs and Denitrifiers APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Chang, J., Kim, D. D., Semrau, J. D., Lee, J., Heo, H., Gu, W., Yoon, S. 2021; 87 (5)


    Unique means of copper scavenging have been identified in proteobacterial methanotrophs, particularly the use of methanobactin, a novel ribosomally synthesized post-translationally modified polypeptide that binds copper with very high affinity. The possibility that copper sequestration strategies of methanotrophs may interfere with copper uptake of denitrifiers in situ and thereby enhance N2O emissions was examined using a suite of laboratory experiments performed with rice paddy microbial consortia. Addition of purified methanobactin from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b to denitrifying rice paddy soil microbial consortia resulted in substantially increased N2O production, with more pronounced responses observed for soils with lower copper content. The N2O emission-enhancing effect of the soil's native mbnA-expressing Methylocystaceae methanotrophs on the native denitrifiers was then experimentally verified with a Methylocystaceae-dominant chemostat culture prepared from a rice paddy microbial consortium as the inoculum. Lastly, with microcosms amended with varying cell numbers of methanobactin-producing Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b before CH4 enrichment, microbiomes with different ratios of methanobactin-producing Methylocystaceae to gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs incapable of methanobactin production were simulated. Significant enhancement of N2O production from denitrification was evident in both Methylocystaceae-dominant and Methylococcaceae-dominant enrichments, albeit to a greater extent in the former, signifying the comparative potency of methanobactin-mediated copper sequestration while implying the presence of alternative copper abstraction mechanisms for Methylococcaceae These observations support that copper-mediated methanotrophic enhancement of N2O production from denitrification is plausible where methanotrophs and denitrifiers cohabit.IMPORTANCE Proteobacterial methanotrophs, groups of microorganisms that utilize methane as source of energy and carbon, have been known to utilize unique mechanisms to scavenge copper, namely utilization of methanobactin, a polypeptide that binds copper with high affinity and specificity. Previously the possibility that copper sequestration by methanotrophs may lead to alteration of cuproenzyme-mediated reactions in denitrifiers and consequently increase emission of potent greenhouse gas N2O has been suggested in axenic and co-culture experiments. Here, a suite of experiments with rice paddy soil slurry cultures with complex microbial compositions were performed to corroborate that such copper-mediated interplay may actually take place in environments co-habited by diverse methanotrophs and denitrifiers. As spatial and temporal heterogeneity allow for spatial coexistence of methanotrophy (aerobic) and denitrification (anaerobic) in soils, the results from this study suggest that this previously unidentified mechanism of N2O production may account for significant proportion of N2O efflux from agricultural soils.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.02301-20

    View details for Web of Science ID 000618054600013

    View details for PubMedID 33355098

  • Low-Cost Clamp-On Photometers (ClampOD) and Tube Photometers (TubeOD) for Online Cell Density Determination. Frontiers in microbiology Deutzmann, J. S., Callander, G., Gu, W., Muller, A. L., McCully, A. L., Ahn, J. K., Kracke, F., Spormann, A. M. 1800; 12: 790576


    Optical density (OD) measurement is the gold standard to estimate microbial cell density in aqueous systems. Recording microbial growth curves is essential to assess substrate utilization, gauge sensitivity to inhibitors or toxins, or determine the perfect sampling point. Manual sampling for cuvette-photometer-based measurements can cause disturbances and impact growth, especially for strictly anaerobic or thermophilic microbes. For slow growing microbes, manual sampling can cause data gaps that complicate analysis. Online OD measurement systems provide a solution, but are often expensive and ill-suited for applications such as monitoring microbial growth in custom or larger anaerobic vessels. Furthermore, growth measurements of thermophilic cultures are limited by the heat sensitivity of complex electronics. Here, we present two simple, low-cost, self-assembled photometers-a "TubeOD" for online measurement of anaerobic and thermophilic cultures in Hungate tubes and a "ClampOD" that can be attached to virtually any transparent growth vessel. Both OD-meters can be calibrated in minutes. We detail the manufacturing and calibration procedure and demonstrate continuous acquisition of high quality cell density data of a variety of microbes, including strict anaerobes, a thermophile, and gas-utilizing strains in various glassware. When calibrated and operated within their detection limits (ca. 0.3-90% of the photosensor voltage range), these self-build OD-meters can be used for continuous measurement of microbial growth in a variety of applications, thereby, simplifying and enhancing everyday lab operations.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fmicb.2021.790576

    View details for PubMedID 35095803

  • In situelectrochemical H(2)production for efficient and stable power-to-gas electromethanogenesis GREEN CHEMISTRY Kracke, F., Deutzmann, J. S., Gu, W., Spormann, A. M. 2020; 22 (18): 6194–6203

    View details for DOI 10.1039/d0gc01894e

    View details for Web of Science ID 000571356300028

  • Enhanced Electrosynthetic Hydrogen Evolution by Hydrogenases Embedded in a Redox-Active Hydrogel. Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany) Ruth, J. C., Milton, R. D., Gu, W. n., Spormann, A. M. 2020


    Molecular hydrogen is a major high-energy carrier for future energy technologies, if produced from renewable electrical energy. Hydrogenase enzymes offer a pathway for bioelectrochemically producing hydrogen that is advantageous over traditional platforms for hydrogen production because of low overpotentials and ambient operating temperature and pressure. However, electron delivery from the electrode surface to the enzyme's active site is often rate-limiting. Here, we show three different hydrogenases from Clostridium pasteurianum and Methanococcus maripaludis , when immobilized at a cathode in a cobaltocene-functionalized polyallylamine (Cc-PAA) redox polymer, mediate rapid and efficient hydrogen evolution. We further show that Cc-PAA-mediated hydrogenases can operate at high faradaic efficiency (80-100%) and low overpotential (-0.578 to -0.593 V vs. SHE). Specific activities of these hydrogenases in the electrosynthetic Cc-PAA assay were comparable to their respective activities in traditional methyl viologen assays, indicating that Cc-PAA mediates electron transfer at high rates, to most of the embedded enzymes.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/chem.202000750

    View details for PubMedID 32074397