Fuzhong Zhang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program
Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program

  • 314-935-7671

  • 314-935-7985

  • 314-935-7211

  • Brauer Hall 1022

  • FZhang29@WUSTL.EDU

  • http://zhang.eece.wustl.edu/

  • Synthetic biology, Metabolic engineering, regulatory systems, biofuels, biomaterials

  • Synthetic biology for advanced biofuels, biomaterials, and chemicals.

Research Abstract:

At the Zhang lab, we are interested in using synthetic biology to revolutionize biomanufacturing. We develop microbial systems to produce advanced biofuels that can be directly used in current engines without supplementation, to synthesize novel biomaterials that have properties and functions not achievable by natural and chemically-synthetic materials, and to produce chemicals from renewable feedstock (e.g. lignin). Meanwhile, we engineer synthetic control systems to regulate complex microbial behaviors, including dynamic metabolite sensing and regulation, population heterogeneity, and single cell control.

Dynamic Regulatory Systems:
When engineering microbes to produce biofuels, biomaterials, or other value-added chemicals, it is essential to have high productivity and conversion yield to make such technology economically viable. A critical step toward this goal is to allow cells to constantly monitor their environment and metabolism, and adjust their cellular processes according to their conditions. We are interested in engineering synthetic regulatory systems to dynamically control cellular metabolism. Meanwhile, at single cell level, individual cells often perform differently due to stochastic biological processes, we aim to understand the cause of microbial population heterogeneity and develop methods to control cell-to-cell variations.

Advanced Biofuels:
To meet the increasing demands of sustainable transportation energy, we aim to engineer microbes to produce advanced biofuels that could be readily used in current engines. One of the biggest challenges is to biosynthesize non-natural molecules that have structures exactly the same or highly similar to the fuels currently derived from petroleum. We are engineering enzymes and constructing novel metabolic pathways to produce these compounds. In addition, we are also developing synthetic biology tools to improve the titer, yield, and productivity of the advanced biofuels.

Advanced Biomaterials:
We develop synthetic biology platforms to produce advanced biomaterials with properties and functions not achievable by natural materials.

Selected Publications:

Xiao Y., Bowen C.H., Liu D., Zhang F., Exploiting non-genetic, cell-to-cell variation for enhanced biosynthesis. Nat Chem Biol 12, 339-344, (2016).

Bentley G.J., Jiang W., Xiao Y., Zhang F., Engineering Escherichia coli to Produce Branched-chain Fatty Acids in High Percentages. Metab Eng 38,148-158 (2016).

Bowen C.H., Bonin J., Kogler A., Barba-Ostria C., Zhang F., Engineering Escherichia coli for conversion of glucose to medium-chain ω-hydroxy fatty acids and α,ω-dicarboxylic acids. ACS Synth Biol. 5(3), 200-206, (2016).

Zhang, F., Carothers, J.M., Keasling, J.D., Design of a dynamic sensor-regulator system for production of chemicals and fuels derived from fatty acids. Nat Biotechnol, 30, (4), 354-359 (2012)

Last Updated: 2/8/2018 1:21:48 PM

Microbial population control (cover issue of Nat Chem Biol)
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