The gut microbiome is comprised of bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotic microbes, and a healthy balance within this microbiome is essential for our functioning. These microbes serve us many purposes, ranging from maintaining a strong immune system to affecting the gut-brain axis. Homeostasis of these populations helps to avoid onset of disease by creating hospitable conditions for commensal microbe species to thrive.
Within the gastrointestinal tract, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate help to maintain a healthy gut environment. This is the metabolite that gives our engineered organism, “The Ferminator,” its super powers! SCFAs are bacterial by-products of anaerobic respiration aka fermentation. Abundant levels of these fatty acids, especially butyrate, are critical to maintain proper gastrointestinal function and immune responses. Butyrate additionally works to reduce inflammation and strengthen the integrity of the gut barrier.
Team UFlorida’s project is focused on engineering butyrate production in E. coli Nissle to augment the benefits of a probiotic strain of E. coli. But we don't just want our little bacterium to make butyrate...we want the Ferminator to make A LOT of butyrate. We are engineering E. coli in a way to reach optimal production levels. This has the potential for groundbreaking application in several fields because butyrate has a wide range of useful qualities. We can give our strain the resources to make the metabolite, but that does not mean E. coli Nissle will produce butyrate efficiently or effectively. Our project goal is to "train" the bacteria to get rid of some metabolic habits that will drain its energy and resources away from its ultimate role...view the Description page to learn more!