Prof. Dr. Peter Dürre
Analysis of regulatory mechanisms in butanol/acetone-forming pathways in clostridia and metabolic engineering of autotrophic anaerobic acetogens, aiming at replacing crude oil- or sugar-based production processes by fermentations using greenhouse gases as carbon sources
Research of my group focuses on obligately anaerobic bacteria, with documented experience in the field of clostridial physiology and genetics. A major project involves elucidation of regulation of acetone and butanol production in Clostridium acetobutylicum. This process is initiated by the master regulator Spo0A. In addition, at least 5 additional transcription factors and a small non-coding RNA were found to be involved as well. "omics"-technologies and system biology approaches are used to elucidate these complex metabolic networks. As the solvents acetone and butanol are important feedstocks for the chemical industry, metabolic engineering of solvent-producing strains for industrial use is another important topic in the lab. Several genomes of solventogenic clostridia have been sequenced.
Butanol is also a superior biofuel and has tremendous potential in this respect, provided second generation substrates (waste gases, lignocellulosic hydrolysates) can be used for its production. Therefore, development of autotrophic clostridia (e. g. Clostridium ljungdahlii) as novel microbial production platforms became another major research focus in recent years. Syngas (CO/H2 mixtures) and CO2/H2 mixtures, especially from waste gas streams or biomass conversion, can play a major role in biotechnological production processes, combining the advantage of avoiding substrates competing with nutrition (such as starch or sugar) or high crude oil prices (if products are made by chemical synthesis) with climate improvement by reducing greenhouse gases. In addition to butanol, metabolic engineering of autotrophic acetogens for production of a number of platform chemicals from gases is performed. Genomes of several acetogens have been sequenced.
Other projects are focused on medical issues. One aims at construction and application of clostridial recombinant endospores for cancer treatment, the other at identification of acne-causing enzymes in Propionibacterium acnes for selective inhibition and disease therapy. The genome of P. acnes has been sequenced.