Flexible Piezoelectric Acoustic Sensors for Speake..
A KAIST research team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee from the Department of Material Science and Engineering has developed a machine learning-based acoustic sensor for speaker recognition. Acoustic sensors were spotlighted as one of the most intuitive bilateral communication devices between humans and machines. However, conventional acoustic sensors use a condenser-type device for measuring capacitance between two conducting layers, resulting in low sensitivity, short recognition distance, and low speaker recognition rates. The team fabricated a flexible piezoelectric membrane by mimicking the basilar membrane in the human cochlear. Resonant frequencies vibrate corresponding regions of the trapezoidal piezoelectric membrane, which converts voice to electrical signal with a highly sensitive self-powered acoustic sensor. This multi-channel piezoelectric acoustic sensor exhibits sensitivity more than two times higher and allows for more abundant voice information compared to conventional acoustic sensors, which can detect minute sounds from farther distances. In addition, the acoustic sensor can achieve a 97.5％ speaker recognition rate using a machine learning algorithm, reducing by 75％ error rate than the reference microphone. AI speaker recognition is the next big thing for future individual customized services. However, conventional technology attempts to improve recognition rates by using software upgrades, resulting in limited speaker recognition rates. The team enhanced the speaker recognition system by replacing the existing hardware with an innovative flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor. Further software improvement of the piezoelectric acoustic sensor will significantly increase the speaker and voice recognition rate in diverse environments. Professor Lee said, “Highly sensitive self-powered acoustic sensors for speaker recognition can be used for personalized voice services such as smart home appliances, AI secretaries, always-on IoT, biometric authentication, and FinTech.” These research “Basilar Membrane-Inspired Self-Powered Acoustic Sensor” and “Machine Learning-based Acoustic Sensor for Speaker Recognition” were published in the September 2018 issue of Nano Energy. Firgure 1: A flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor mimicking the human cochlear. Figure 2: Speaker recognition with a machine learning algorithm.
Engineered E. coli Using Formic Acid and CO2 As a ..
(Figure: Formic acid and CO2 assimilation pathways consisting of the reconstructed THF cycle and reverse glycine cleavage reaction. This schematic diagram shows the formic acid and CO2 assimilation procedure through the pathway. Plasmids used in this study and the genetic engineering performed in this study are illustrated.) A research group at KAIST has developed an engineered E. coli strain that converts formic acid and CO2 to pyruvate and produces cellular energy from formic acid through reconstructed one-carbon pathways. The strategy described in this study provides a new platform for producing value-added chemicals from one-carbon sources. Formic acid is a carboxylic acid composed of one carbon. Formic acid was produced from CO2 by the chemical method. Recently, the C1 Gas Refinery R&D Center has successfully developed a biological process that produces formic acid from carbon monoxide for the first time. Formic acid is in a liquid state when at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. In addition, it is chemically stable and less toxic, thus, easy to store and transport. Therefore, it can be used as an alternative carbon source in the microbial fermentation process. In order to produce value-added chemicals using formic acid, a metabolic pathway that converts formic acid into cellular molecules composed of multiple carbons is required. However, a metabolic pathway that can efficiently convert formic acid into cellular molecules has not been developed. This acted as an obstacle for the production of value-added chemicals using formic acid A research group of Ph.D. student Junho Bang and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering addressed this issue. This study, entitled “Assimilation of Formic Acid and CO2 by Engineered Escherichia coli Equipped with Reconstructed One-Carbon Assimilation Pathways”, has been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on September 18. There has been increasing interest in utilizing formic acid as an alternative carbon source for the production of value-added chemicals. This research reports the development of an engineered E. coli strain that can convert formic acid and CO2 to pyruvate and produce cellular energy from formic acid through the reconstructed one-carbon pathways. The metabolic pathway that efficiently converts formic acid and CO2 into pyruvate was constructed by the combined use of the tetrahydrofolate cycle and reverse glycine cleavage reaction. The tetrahydrofolate cycle was reconstructed by utilizing Methylobacterium extorquens formate-THF ligase, methenyl-THF cyclohydrolase, and methylene-THF dehydrogenase. The glycine cleavage reaction was reversed by knocking out the repressor gene (gcvR) and overexpressing the gcvTHP genes that encode enzymes related with the glycine cleavage reaction. Formic acid and CO2 conversion to pyruvate was increased via metabolic engineering of the E. coli strain equipped with the one-carbon assimilation pathway. In addition, in order to reduce glucose consumption and increase formic acid consumption, Candida boidnii formate dehydrogenase was additionally introduced to construct a cellular energy producing pathway from formic acid. This reduces glucose consumption and increases formic acid consumption. The reconstructed one-carbon pathways can supply cellular molecules and cellular energies from the formic acid and CO2. Thus, the engineered E. coli strain equipped with the formic acid and CO2 assimilation pathway and cellular energy producing pathway from formic acid showed cell growth from formic acid and CO2 without glucose. Cell growth was monitored and 13C isotope analysis was performed to confirm E. coli growth from the formic acid and CO2. It was found that the engineered E. coli strain sustained cell growth from the formic acid and CO2 without glucose. Professor Lee said, “To construct the C1-refinery system, a platform strain that can convert one-carbon materials to higher carbon materials needs to be developed. In this report, a one-carbon pathway that can efficiently convert formic acid and CO2 to pyruvate was developed and a cellular energy producing pathway from formic acid was introduced. This resulted in an engineered E. coli strain that can efficiently utilize formic acid as a carbon source while glucose consumption was reduced. The reconstructed one-carbon pathways in this research will be useful for the construction of the C1-refinery system.” This work was supported by the C1 Gas Refinery Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2016M3D3A1A01913250). For further information: Sang Yup Lee, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, KAIST (leesy＠kaist.ac.kr, Tel: ＋82-42-350-3930)
KAIST Perfectly Transfers Nanowires onto a Flexibl..
(from left: PhD Min-Ho Seo and Professor Jun-Bo Yoon) Boasting excellent physical and chemical properties, nanowires (NWs) are suitable for fabricating flexible electronics; therefore, technology to transfer well-aligned wires plays a crucial role in enhancing performance of the devices. A KAIST research team succeeded in developing NW-transfer technology that is expected to enhance the existing chemical reaction-based NW fabrication technology that has this far showed low performance in applicability and productivity. NWs, one of the most well-known nanomaterials, have the structural advantage of being small and lightweight. Hence, NW-transfer technology has drawn attention because it can fabricate high-performance, flexible nanodevices with high simplicity and throughput. A conventional nanowire-fabrication method generally has an irregularity issue since it mixes chemically synthesized nanowires in a solution and randomly distributes the NWs onto flexible substrates. Hence, numerous nanofabrication processes have emerged, and one of them is master-mold-based, which enables the fabrication of highly ordered NW arrays embedded onto substrates in a simple and cost-effective manner, but its employment is limited to only some materials because of its chemistry-based NW-transfer mechanism, which is complex and time consuming. For the successful transfer, it requires that adequate chemicals controlling the chemical interfacial adhesion between the master mold, NWs, and flexible substrate be present. Here, Professor Jun-Bo Yoon and his team from the School of Electrical Engineering introduced a material-independent mechanical-interlocking-based nanowire-transfer (MINT) method to fabricate ultralong and fully aligned NWs on a large flexible substrate in a highly robust manner. This method involves sequentially forming a nanosacrificial layer and NWs on a nanograting substrate that becomes the master mold for the transfer, then weakening the structure of the nanosacrificial layer through a dry etching process. The nanosacrificial layer very weakly holds the nanowires on the master mold. Therefore, when using a flexible substrate material, the nanowires are very easily transferred from the master mold to the substrate, just like a piece of tape lifting dust off a carpet. This technology uses common physical vapor deposition and does not rely on NW materials, making it easy to fabricate NWs onto the flexible substrates. Using this technology, the team was able to fabricate a variety of metal and metal-oxide NWs, including gold, platinum, and copper – all perfectly aligned on a flexible substrate. They also confirmed that it can be applied to creating stable and applicable devices in everyday life by successfully applying it to flexible heaters and gas sensors. PhD Min-Ho Seo who led this research said, “We have successfully aligned various metals and semiconductor NWs with excellent physical properties onto flexible substrates and applied them to fabricated devices. As a platform-technology, it will contribute to developing high-performing and stable electronic devices.” This research was published in ACS Nano on May 24. Figure 1. Photograph of the fabricated wafer-scale fully aligned and ultralong Au nanowire array on a flexible substrate
President Shin Presents Opportunities ＆ Challenges..
(President Shin makes a keynote speech at the 2018 Summer Davos Forum in China on Sept.20.) KAIST co-hosted the Asia Session with the World Economic Forum during the 2018 Summer Davos Forum in Tianjin, China from September 18 through 20. The session highlighted regional collaboration in Asia to promote inclusive growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. KAIST is working closely with the WEF to take the lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Last July, KAIST established the Fourth Industrial Revolution Information Center (FIRIC) at the KAIST Institute and signed an MOU with the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) at the WEF in October. The session is a follow-up event KAIST and the C4IR agreed to last year during the Roundtable Session held in Seoul. Many experts in new emerging industries as well as many project directors, including Director Murat Sonmez of the C4IR, attended the session KAIST hosted. Director Chizuru Suga at the C4IR in Japan, Director Danil Kerimi in China, and Director Shailesh Sharda in India also attended the session and discussed ways to expand collaboration and networks among the countries. In his keynote speech at the session on September 20, President Sung-Chul Shin presented how the Korean government is trying to drive the economy by strategically investing in focused industries in the new global industrial environment. President Shin introduced the government’s strategic roadmap to build the competitiveness of emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, and precision medicine. He also stressed that the three components of innovation, collaboration, and speed should be prioritized in all sectors for the successful realization of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For instance, innovation in education, research, and technology commercialization, expansive domestic and international collaboration beyond the private and public sectors, speedy deregulation, and efficient governance will all be critical. He also said that KAIST will launch new pilot collaboration projects along with the WEF soon. “We paved the way for leading the network with major countries including Japan and India for advancing the Fourth Industrial Revolution through this session,” President Shin said.
Spray Coated Tactile Sensor on a 3-D Surface for R..
Robots will be able to conduct a wide variety of tasks as well as humans if they can be given tactile sensing capabilities. A KAIST research team has reported a stretchable pressure insensitive strain sensor by using an all solution-based process. The solution-based process is easily scalable to accommodate for large areas and can be coated as a thin-film on 3-dimensional irregularly shaped objects via spray coating. These conditions make their processing technique unique and highly suitable for robotic electronic skin or wearable electronic applications. The making of electronic skin to mimic the tactile sensing properties of human skin is an active area of research for various applications such as wearable electronics, robotics, and prosthetics. One of the major challenges in electronic skin research is differentiating various external stimuli, particularly between strain and pressure. Another issue is uniformly depositing electrical skin on 3-dimensional irregularly shaped objects. To overcome these issues, the research team led by Professor Steve Park from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Jung Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed electronic skin that can be uniformly coated on 3-dimensional surfaces and distinguish mechanical stimuli. The new electronic skin can also distinguish mechanical stimuli analogous to human skin. The structure of the electronic skin was designed to respond differently under applied pressure and strain. Under applied strain, conducting pathways undergo significant conformational changes, considerably changing the resistance. On the other hand, under applied pressure, negligible conformational change in the conducting pathway occurs; e-skin is therefore non-responsive to pressure. The research team is currently working on strain insensitive pressure sensors to use with the developed strain sensors. The research team also spatially mapped the local strain without the use of patterned electrode arrays utilizing electrical impedance tomography (EIT). By using EIT, it is possible to minimize the number of electrodes, increase durability, and enable facile fabrication onto 3-dimensional surfaces. Professor Park said, “Our electronic skin can be mass produced at a low cost and can easily be coated onto complex 3-dimensional surfaces. It is a key technology that can bring us closer to the commercialization of electronic skin for various applications in the near future.” The result of this work entitled “Pressure Insensitive Strain Sensor with Facile Solution-based Process for Tactile Sensing Applications” was published in the August issue of ACS Nano as a cover article. (Figure: Detecting mechanical stimuli using electrical impedance tomography
KAIST First Reveals Principles behind Electron Hea..
(from left: Professor Wonho Choe and Research Professor Sanghoo Park) A KAIST research team successfully identified the underlying principles behind electron heating, which is one of the most important phenomena in plasmas. As the electric heating determines wide range of physical and chemical properties of plasmas, this outcome will allow relevant industries to extend and effectively customize a range of plasma characteristics for their specific needs. Plasma, frequently called the fourth state of matter, can be mostly formed by artificially energizing gases in standard temperature (25°C) and pressure (1 atm) range. Among the many types of plasma, atmospheric-pressure plasmas have been gaining a great deal of attention due to their unique features and applicability in various scientific and industrial fields. Because plasma characteristics strongly depends on gas pressure in the sub-atmospheric to atmospheric pressure range, characterizing the plasma at different pressures is a prerequisite for understanding the fundamental principles of plasmas and for their industrial applications. In that sense, information on the spatio-temporal evolution in the electron density and temperature is very important because various physical and chemical reactions within a plasma arise from electrons. Hence, electron heating has been an interesting topic in the field of plasma. Because collisions between free electrons and neutral gases are frequent under atmospheric-pressure conditions, there are physical limits to measuring the electron density and temperature in plasmas using conventional diagnostic tools, thus the principles behind free electron heating could not be experimentally revealed. Moreover, lacking information on a key parameter of electron heating and its controlling methods is troublesome and limit improving the reactivity and applicability of such plasmas. To address these issues, Professor Wonho Choe and his team from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering employed neutral bremsstrahlung-based electron diagnostics in order to accurately examine the electron density and temperature in target plasmas. In addition, a novel imaging diagnostics for two dimensional distribution of electron information was developed. Using the diagnostic technique they developed, the team measured the nanosecond-resolved electron temperature in weakly ionized collisional plasmas, and they succeeded in revealing the spatiotemporal distribution and the fundamental principle involved in the electron heating process. The team successfully revealed the fundamental principle of the electron heating process under atmospheric to sub-atmospheric pressure (0.25-1atm) conditions through conducting the experiment on the spatiotemporal evolution of electron temperature. Their findings of the underlying research data on free electrons in weakly ionized collisional plasmas will contribute to enhancing the field of plasma science and their commercial applications. Professor Choe said, “The results of this study provide a clear picture of electron heating in weakly ionized plasmas under conditions where collisions between free electrons and neutral particles are frequent. We hope this study will be informative and helpful in utilizing and commercializing atmospheric-pressure plasma sources in the near future.” Articles related to this research, led by Research Professor Sanghoo Park, were published in Scientific Reports on May 14 and July 5. Figure 1. Nanosecond-resolved visualization of the electron heating structure. Spatiotemporal evolution of 514.5-nm continuum radiation,Te, Ar I emission Figure 2. Nanosecond-resolved visualization of electron heating. Spatiotemporal evolution of neutral bremsstrahlung at 514.5 nm
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Announced as ..
(Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee) Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will be awarded the 2018 Eni Advanced Environmental Solutions Prize in recognition of his innovations in the fields of energy and environment. The award ceremony will take place at the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who will also be attending on October 22. Eni, an Italian multinational energy corporation established the Eni Award in 2008 to promote technological and research innovation of efficient and sustainable energy resources. The Advanced Environmental Solutions Prize is one of the three categories of the Eni Award. The other two categories are Energy Transition and Energy Frontiers. The Award for Advanced Environmental Solutions recognizes a researcher or group of scientists that has achieved internationally significant R&D results in the field of environmental protection and recovery. The Eni Award is referred to as the Nobel Award in the fields of energy and environment. Professor Lee, a pioneering leader in systems metabolic engineering was honored with the award for his developing engineered bacteria to produce chemical products, fuels, and non-food biomass materials sustainably and with a low environmental impact. He has leveraged the technology to develop microbial bioprocesses for the sustainable and environmentally friendly production of chemicals, fuels, and materials from non-food renewable biomass. The award committee said that they considered the following elements in assessing Professor Lee’s achievement: the scientific relevance and the research innovation level; the impact on the energy system in terms of sustainability as well as fairer and broader access to energy; and the adequacy between technological and economic aspects. Professor Lee, who already won two other distinguished prizes such as the George Washington Carver Award and the PV Danckwerts Memorial Lecture Award this year, said, “I am so glad that the international academic community as well as global industry leaders came to recognize our work that our students and research team has made for decades.” Dr. Lee’s lab has been producing a lot of chemicals in environmentally friendly ways. Among them, many were biologically produced for the first time and some of these processes have been already commercialized. “We will continue to strive for research outcomes with two objectives: First, to develop bio-based processes suitable for sustainable chemical industry. The other is to contribute to the human healthcare system through development of platform technologies integrating medicine and nutrition,” he added.
Rh Ensemble Catalyst for Effective Automobile Exha..
(from left: Professor Hyunjoo Lee and PhD candidate Hojin Jeong) A KAIST research team has developed a fully dispersed Rh ensemble catalyst (ENS) that shows better performance than commercial diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC). This newly developed ENSs could improve low-temperature automobile exhaust treatment. Precious metals have been used for various heterogeneous reactions, but it is crucial to maximize efficiency of catalysts due to their high cost. Single-atom catalysts (SACs) have received much attention because it is possible for all of the metal atoms to be used for reactions, yet they do not show catalytic activity for reactions that require ensemble sites. Meanwhile, hydrocarbons, such as propylene (C3H6) and propane (C3H8) are typical automobile exhaust gas pollutants and must be converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) before they are released as exhaust. Since the hydrocarbon oxidation reaction proceeds only during carbon-carbon (C-C) or carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bond cleavage, it is essential to secure the metal ensemble site for the catalytic reaction. Therefore, precious metal catalysts with high dispersion and ensemble sites are greatly needed. To solve this issue, Professor Hyunjoo Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Professor Jeong Woo Han from POSTECH developed an Rh ensemble catalyst with 100％ dispersion, and applied it to automobile after-treatment. Having a 100％ dispersion means that every metal atom is used for the reaction since it is exposed on the surface. SACs also have 100％ dispersion, but the difference is that ENSs have the unique advantage of having an ensemble site with two or more atoms. As a result of the experiment, the ENSs showed excellent catalytic performance in CO, NO, propylene, and propane oxidation at low temperatures. This complements the disadvantage of nanoparticle catalyst (NPs) that perform catalysis poorly at low temperatures due to low metal dispersion, or SACs without hydrocarbon oxidation. In particular, the ENSs have superior low-temperature activity even better than commercial DOC, hence they are expected to be applied to automobile exhaust treatment. Professor Lee said, “I believe that the ENSs have given academic contribution for proposing a new concept of metal catalysts, differentiating from conventional SACs and NPs. At the same time, they are of great value in the industry of exhaust treatment catalysts.” This research, led by PhD candidate Hojin Jeong, was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on July 5. Figure 1. Concept of Rh ensemble catalyst for automobile exhaust treatment Figure 2. Structure and performance comparison of single-atom catalyst and ensemble catalyst Figure 3. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) mapping images for SAC, ENS, and NP, respectively (green, Eh; red, Ce)
KAIST Identifies the Trigger of the Hyperactivatio..
(Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering) Scientists have been investigating the negative effects that the hyperactivation of fibrosis has on fibrotic diseases and cancer. A KAIST research team unveiled a positive feedback loop that bi-stably activates fibroblasts in collaboration with Samsung Medical Center. This finding will contribute to developing therapeutic targets for both fibrosis and cancer. Human fibroblasts are dormant in normal tissue, but show radical activation during wound healing. However, the principle that induces their explosive activation has not yet been identified. Here, Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, in collaboration with Professor Seok-Hyung Kim from Samsung Medical Center, discovered the principle of a circuit that continuously activates fibroblasts. They constructed a positive feedback loops (PFLs) where Twist1, Prrx1, and Tenascin-C (TNC) molecules consecutively activate fibroblasts. They confirmed that these are the main inducers of fibroblast activation by conducting various experiments, including molecular biological tests, mathematical modeling, animal testing, and computer simulations to conclude that they are the main inducers of fibroblast activation. According to their research, Twist 1 is a key regulator of cancer-associated fibroblasts, which directly upregulates Prrx1 and then triggers TNC, which also increases Twist1 expression. This circuit consequently forms a Twist-Prrx1-TNC positive feedback loop. Activated fibroblasts need to be deactivated after wounds are healed. However, if the PFLs continue, the fibroblasts become the major cause of worsening fibrotic diseases and cancers. Therefore, the team expects that Twist1-Prrx1-TNC positive PFLs will be applied for novel and effective therapeutic targeting of fibrotic diseases and cancers. This research was published in Nature Communications on August 1, 2018. Figure 1. Twist1 increases tenascin-c expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts. Twist1 is a potent but indirect inducer of tenascin-c (TNC), which is essential for maintaining Twist1 expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Figure 2. Summary of the study. The Twist1-Prrx1-TNC positive feedback regulation provides clues for understanding the activation of fibroblasts during wound healing under normal conditions, as well as abnormally activated fibroblasts in pathological conditions such as cancerous and fibrotic diseases. Under normal conditions, the PFL acts as a reversible bistable switch by which the activation of fibroblasts is “ON" above a sufficient level of stimulation and “OFF" for the withdrawal of the stimulus. However, this switch can be permanently turned on under pathologic conditions by continued activation of the PFL, resulting in sustained proliferation of fibroblasts.
[Business Korea] KAIST to Hold World’s First ‘AI W..
The world’s first “AI World Cup,” where players use AI technology to utilize their soccer skills and compete with each other, will be held Aug. 20-22 in South Korea. On August 15, KAIST announced that it is holding the “2018 International AI World Cup Match” for three days from August 20 at the KAIST main campus in Daejeon. A total of 29 teams from 12 countries around the world are participating, including Google, MIT, Northwestern University, Seoul National University, and KAIST, who each owns the latest AI technology. Game events consist of AI soccer (23 teams), AI game commentary (four teams) and AI reporter (two teams). In the AI soccer game, 5 AI players who have learned soccer tactics play the first and second half of the game, which are five minutes each, without human control, and try to score a goal. The qualifying round is run in a tournament format and the final winning team is rewarded ten thousand dollars, while the second and third place team each takes 500 and 2000 dollars. In the AI game commentary event, AI players analyze and explain an AI soccer game, and the winning team is selected based on the use of accurate expressions for players’ movements, game forecasting comments using the number of shooting of each player, etc. In the AI reporter event, AI players write news reports based on the AI soccer game play and the AI game commentaries, and the team that wrote an honest and informative article based on truth will win. On August 22, KAIST plans to have a time to introduce methods used by developers to create this AI game, developmental procedures, and game strategies. Also during the match, “International AI Workshop” will open, where world-renowned AI experts, like Oliver Mitchell, CEO of a Swiss robot simulator maker, Cyberbotics, and Professor Eric Matson from Purdue University, will give lectures and hold panel discussion.
[THE DONG-A ILBO Logo] Kaist to host World’s first..
The world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) World Cup Games, a competition among football algorithms developed by countries around the world, will be held in Korea. KAIST announced Wednesday plans to host the 2018 AI World Cup Competition at its home campus in Daejeon for three days starting on August 20. Twenty nine teams from twelve countries including the United States, China, France and Brazil will participate in the competition, which will be divided into three fields: football play, commentary and sports article writing. The number of participating teams is 23, four and two, respectively in each field. Football teams consist of five AI football players who have learned the tactics of the sport. Play time will be 10 minutes, five minutes dedicated to the first and second half. Similar to computer games, the competition will be played out on a screen, but will not be entirely controlled by humans. The semi-final round, the 3rd and 4th place playoff and the final match will be open to the public on next Wednesday. Those who wish to attend can apply at aiworldcup.com by Sunday. Prize money will be offered: one million dollars for the final winner; and 5,000 and 2,000 dollars for second and third place in the football play competition. Winners in football commentary and article writing will be given 5,000 dollars respectively. kyungeun＠donga.com
Metabolic Engineering of E. coli for the Secretory..
Researchers of KAIST have defined a novel strategy for the secretory production of free haem using engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains. They utilized the C5 pathway, the optimized downstream pathways, and the haem exporter to construct a recombinant micro-organism producing extracellular haem using fed-batch fermentation. This is the first report to extracellularly produce haem using engineered E. coli. This strategy will expedite the efficient production of free haem to serve as a bioavailable iron-supplying agent and an important prosthetic group of multiple hemoproteins for medical uses. This study, led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was published in Nature Catalysis on Aug. 28. Haem, an organometallic compound complexed with a ferrous ion, is an essential molecule delivering oxygen in the blood of many animals. It is also a key component of electron transport chains responsible for the respiration of aerobic organisms including diverse bacteria. It is now being widely applied as a bioavailable iron-supplying agent in the healthcare and dietary supplement industries. The demand for haem and the need for the efficient production of this compound continue to grow. Many previous researchers have attempted to produce free haem using engineered E. coli. However, none of the studies was successful in producing free haem extracellularly, requiring an additional step to extract the accumulated haem from cells for subsequent uses. The secretion of haem in the form of haem peptides or proteins also requires an extraction step to isolate the free haem from the secreted products. Thus, the secretory production of free haem is an important task for the economical production of haem that is suitable for human consumption. Although some researchers could produce intracellular haem using recombinant E. coli strains, its final titer was extremely low, resulting from the use of sub-optimal metabolic pathways. Furthermore, the addition of the precursors L-glycine and succinate was deemed undesirable for massive industrial production. Thus, it is necessary to construct an optimized haem biosynthetic pathway to enable the efficient production of haem and examine the consequent secretion of free haem. To address this issue, the KAIST team used multiple strategies to produce extracellular free haem by enhancing its biosynthesis in E. coli. First, the capacities of the C4 and C5 pathways to produce aminolevulinate (ALA) without feeding precursors were examined. After confirming the superior performance of the C5 pathway over the C4 pathway, the metabolic genes of the C5 pathway and downstream pathways for haem biosynthesis were overexpressed. Then, the metabolic pathways were optimized by adjusting the expression levels of the relevant genes and disrupting the putative haem degradation enzyme encoded by the yfeX gene. Consequently, the resulting engineered strain secreted a significant amount of haem to the medium. Subsequent optimization of the cultivation conditions and the supplementation of nitrogen sources further increased both the titer of the total free haem and the amount of free haem secreted to the medium. Finally, the overexpression of the ccmABC genes encoding the haem exporter further enhanced the production and secretion of haem, producing the highest titer of haem both intracellularly and extracellularly from glucose. Professor Lee said, “The eco-friendly and sustainable chemical industry is a key global agenda every nation faces. We are conducting research to bio-synthesize high concentrations, high yields, and high productivity in natural products. This novel technology will serve as an opportunity to advance the biochemical industry moving forward.” This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Further Contact: Dr. Sang Yup Lee, Distinguished Professor, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea ( leesy＠kaist.ac.kr＋82-42-350-3930).