Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Degree Program

Chemical Engineering

Degree Type

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (M.S.Ch.E.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



In the first part of this research, we constructed a Genome scale Metabolic Model (GEM) of Taxus cuspidata, a medicinal plant used to produce paclitaxel (Taxol®). The construction of the T. cuspidata GEM was predicated on recent acquisition of a transcriptome of T. cuspidata metabolism under methyl jasmonate (MJ) elicited conditions (when paclitaxel is produced) and unelicited conditions (when paclitaxel is not produced). Construction of the draft model, in which transcriptomic data from elicited and unelicited conditions were included, utilized tools including the ModelSEED developed by Argonne National Laboratory. Although a model was successfully created and gapfilled by ModelSEED using their software, we were not able to reproduce their results using COBRA, a widely accepted FBA software package. Further work needs to be done to figure out how to run ModelSEED models on commonly available software.

In the second part of this research, we modeled the MJ elicited/defense response phenotype in Arabidopsis thaliana. Previously published models of A. thaliana were tested for suitability in modeling the MJ elicited phenotype using publicly available computation tools. MJ elicited and unelicited datasets were compared to ascertain differences in metabolism between these two phenotypes. The MJ elicited and unelicited datasets were significantly different in many respects, including the expression levels of many genes associated with secondary metabolism. However, it was found that the expression of genes related to growth and central metabolism were not generally significantly different for the MJ+ and MJ- datasets, the pathways associated with secondary metabolism were incomplete and could not be modeled, and FBA methods did not show the difference in growth that was expected. These results suggest that behavior associated with the MJ+ phenotype such as slow growth and secondary metabolite production may be controlled by factors not easily modeled with transcriptome data alone.

Additional research was performed in the area of cryosectioning and immunostaining of fixed Taxus aggregates. Protocols developed for this work can be found in Appendix B.

First Advisor

Susan C Roberts