College of Biological Sciences
As a methylotroph, Methylobacterium can grow on reduced one-carbon compounds and benefit from their association with plants by utilizing methanol emitted from plant tissues. Methanol growth uses high-flux oxidative pathways that generate formaldehyde as an obligate intermediate; formaldehyde is, therefore, a central metabolite and a potential stressor. While subsequent formaldehyde utilization is well-characterized, little is known about the cellular consequences of formaldehyde imbalance in Methylobacterium or the mechanisms used to maintain intracellular homeostasis and avert/repair cellular damage. By studying formaldehyde stress in a methylotroph these researchers focus on an organism primed to encounter formaldehyde at higher concentrations than most. They aim to characterize formaldehyde specific stress response systems and understand how the cell coordinates them with general stress response systems to protect itself from this potent endogenous toxin.