Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Mastering the Metabolic Mix

Through the discovery of natural tricks and the invention of new tactics, scientists are harnessing the power of RNA to manipulate gene expression in bacteria.
March 8, 2016
Cliff Unkefer, Karissa Sanbonmatsu, and Scott Hennelly

Los Alamos scientists Cliff Unkefer, Karissa Sanbonmatsu, and Scott Hennelly lead a larger team that is learning new ways of controlling bacterial metabolism.

“The idea is to bypass billions of years of evolution and engineer entire bacterial metabolic pathways to a particular end.”

A key player in many cellular processes, RNA is a dynamic molecule that performs many different tasks. Los Alamos researchers are capitalizing on the versatility of RNA to adjust bacterial metabolism for a variety of far-reaching goals. The mechanisms they are studying, both natural and artificial, could aid in the bacterial production of particular products humans want more of (e.g. fuels) or consumption of those humans want less of (e.g. toxins).