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Acetyl-CoA metabolic network

Acetyl-CoA is a metabolite that sits at a key point connecting catabolic and anabolic metabolism, and it is also juxtaposed between central carbon metabolism and specialized metabolism. Because of the unique central metabolic position that acetyl-CoA occupies, flux through this intermediate is highly regulated by the integration of a variety of different mechanisms. Plants generate and utilize different pools of acetyl-CoA for the biosynthesis of a variety of phytochemicals, many of which represent the most reduced forms of carbon (i.e., they are the most energy-dense compounds) that biological systems can produce, namely, oils, hydrocarbons, waxes, and terpenoids.

Therefore, understanding the complexity of acetyl-CoA metabolism has long-term ramifications in elucidating a solution to the increasing US energy needs. However, before such applications can be realized, basic research has to be conducted that will lead to the predictive understanding of metabolic processes dependent upon acetyl-CoA metabolism. Moreover, because the biosynthesis of high-energy phytochemicals is intercalated with a number of other metabolic processes (see figure below), detailed knowledge of the structure and regulation of this metabolic network is required. The research in the Nikolau group seeks to elucidate the biochemical and genetic mechanisms that regulate the acetyl-CoA metabolic network, as the network responds to different developmental, environmental and genetic cues to generate different end-products of metabolism.

Current researchers

Libuse Brachova, associate scientist and lab manager
Naazneen Sofeo, PhD student, Biochemistry
Xinyu Fu, PhD student, Plant Biology

Past researchers

Huanan Jin, postdoctoral research associate
Joel Schmidt, PhD student, Biochemistry

Funding Organization

National Science Foundation