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New Award - College of Science, Technology and Health, Chemistry

Bioremediation is a process that utlizes living organisms to mitigate the negative impacts of environmental toxins. Many bacteria have been found to naturally reduce the toxin Chromium (VI) to its much less toxid form of Chromium (III). However, this reduction process generates reactive oxygen species, such as hydroxyl radicals, that are damaging to the same bacteria that facilitate the reduction. Thus, to improve the efficiency of bioremediation of Chromium (VI), we aim to develop a defense for the bacteria against the oxidative stress associated with chemical reduction. Trehalose is a small biomolecule that has been demonstrated to protect bacteria from various stressors, including reactive oxygen species. Based on this important precedent and supporting preliminary data from my lab, I hypothesize that overexpressing trehalose biosynthesis genes in bacteria capable of bioremediation will improve the viability of the bacteria stressed with potassium dichromate. Because of this bolstered defense against toxic and oxidative damage, we predict that bacteria overexpressing trehalose will reduce higher levels of Chromium (VI) than their wildtype counterparts. Ultimately, increasing trehalose production through genetic engineering or directed evolution will provide us with an efficient and relatively inexpensive method for environmental remediation.