Sugar Rush

Wisconsin Lutheran College - Milwaukee

The goal of our research project is to engineer a probiotic bacterium to secrete the cellulase enzyme that will break down indigestible cellulose in plant material to its digestible glucose components. By introducing this bacterium into an animal, the animal would be able to gain nutritional sustenance from plant material that is normally passed as waste. Molecular biology methods will be performed to clone a cellulase gene into a cloning vector that will allow this enzyme to be produced in a bacterial cell and ultimately secreted into its environment. Specific genes will also be incorporated into the bacterial strain to ensure the new cellulase-secreting strain will not be harmful to the environment.

Our team also aimed to assess feelings towards biotechnology through a survey that we administered. We reached out to our community by hosting a camp for high school students. Our camp served home schooled students and students from area Lutheran high schools. We provided these students with the opportunity to gain lab experience which they likely would not have had access to.

Sugar Rush Abstract

In parts of the world suitable land to raise grazing animals is limited so these animals are either not raised or are malnourished. Animals can get more nourishment from a smaller amount of land if they increase digestion efficiency by converting more sugar polymers (cellulose) from plants into usable sugars. We aim to construct an Escherichia coli strain capable of secreting cellulose-degrading enzymes in an animal’s gut. This strain will contain a plasmid that expresses the bglS, yesZ, and xynA genes from Bacillus subtilis that code for three enzymes that cleave different bonds in cellulose. These enzymes will be secreted from the well-studied probiotic Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 cell by a Type I secretion system whose genes are also engineered into the plasmid. In raising animals with this engineered bacterium, we hope to increase the amount of available calories for nutrient-deprived populations while having minimal effects on established cultural practices.