This project combines synthetic biology, microfluidic technology, and computational modeling to probe metabolic networks in three model organisms in dynamic environments and to study the evolutionary process of developing a competitive growth advantage. A synthetic genetic oscillator will control expression of essential metabolic enzymes in E. coli and Synechocystis (a cyanobacterium), and the growth characteristics of these engineered organisms in a periodically changing environment will be compared to wildtype, non-modified organisms. In yeast, synthetic biology and microfluidic technology will be used to "evolve" a well-characterized metabolic network and microscopy will be used to identify changes that confer a growth advantage in a dynamic environment. The combination of modeling and experimental approaches will provide insight into how organisms can be modified, either through engineered or natural evolutionary processes, to give them a growth advantage in fluctuating environments.
Broader Impacts: A quantitative understanding of microbial evolution will contribute to the development of new strategies to control microbial infections. An elementary school science program will be developed in partnership with the San Diego Unified and North County school districts. Project personnel and graduate students will work with elementary school teachers to prepare the graduate students to teach hands-on experimental science lessons that are integrated with the classroom curriculum.