Kesen Ma carries out research in physiology and enzymology of hyperthermophiles, a group of microorganisms growing at temperatures of boiling water. Metabolic processes involved in the conversion of biomass to biofuels and bioproducts at elevated temperatures are studied. Novel thermostable enzymes functioning in these processes are identified and characterized. His research provides further understanding of the mechanisms of protein thermostability, unusual metabolic pathways and biocatalysis at high temperatures, and also explores potential applications of these biocatalysts in pharmaceutical and other industrial processes.
Undergraduate Advisor (Biology)
- Biochemistry and enzymology
- Protein purification and analysis
- Metal-containing proteins
- Microbial physiology
- Molecular biology
Physiology and enzymology of hyperthermophilic microorganisms. Current research interests: sulfur reduction and energy metabolism; thermostable dehydrogenases; alcohol metabolism; electron transfer and flavoproteins; enzyme evolution and protein engineering.
Hyperthermophiles are a group of microorganisms isolated mainly from deep sea hydrothermal vents and capable of growing at temperatures of ³ 90°C. The majority of hyperthermophiles are classified as Archaea that are considered as the most slowly evolving of all microorganisms. The metabolism at such high temperature (>100°C) raises many biochemical questions: how are biomolecules stabilized? are there new metabolic pathways and novel metabolites? do these pathways contain unusual enzymes with yet unknown catalytic mechanisms? what is the relationship between structure and function of biomolecules that evolved under extreme conditions? Answering these questions will provide valuable insight into high temperature biochemistry and protein engineering.
Novel enzymes are involved in alcohol fermentation at high temperatures, which include both alcohol dehydrogenase and pyruvate decarboxylase. It is particularly interesting to characterize new types of acetaldehyde-producing enzymes from hyperthermophiles. This research will provide further information required for developing a more efficient system for alcohol fermentation at high temperatures.
Professor Ma teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Course offerings have included
- BIOL 448 Microbial Physiology and Biochemistry
- BIOL 348L Laboratory Methods in Microbiology
- BIOL 499 Senior Honours Project
- BIOL 618 Advanced Microbial Physiology
- BIOL 680 Microbial Physiology & Biochemistry
Recent publications include
- Eram, M.S., and K. Ma. 2016. Pyruvate decarboxylase activity of the acetohydroxyacid synthase of Thermotoga maritima. BBREP. (2016), pp. 394-399. doi:10.1016/j.bbrep.2016.07.008
- Eram, M.S., B. Sarafuddin, F. Gong, K. Ma. 2015. Characterization of acetohydroxyacid synthase from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima. BBREP. 4:89-97 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrep.2015.08. 014
- Yang, X., L. Hao, H. Zhu, and K. Ma. 2015. Purification and Molecular Characterization of an [FeFe]-Hydrogenase from Thermotoga hypogea. Curr. Biotechnol. 4:118-127
- Eram, M.S., E. Oduaran, and K. Ma. 2014. The Bifunctional Pyruvate Decarboxylase/Pyruvate Ferredoxin Oxidoreductase from Thermococcus guaymasensis. Archaea. 2014: Article ID 349379, 13 pages. doi:10.1155/2014/349379
- Dhanjoon, J., X. Ying, F. Salma, and K. Ma. 2013. Characterization of a Thermostable Xylanase from the Extremely Thermophilic Bacterium Thermotoga hypogea. Current Biotechnology. 2:325-333
- Eram, M. S. and K. Ma. 2013. Decarboxylation of Pyruvate to Acetaldehyde for Ethanol Production by Hyperthermophiles. Biomolecules. 3:578-596; doi:10.3390/biom3030578
- Ying, X and Ma, K. 2011. Characterization of a Zinc-containing Alcohol Dehydrogenase with Stereoselectivity from Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Thermococcus guaymasensis. J. Bacteriol. 193:3009-3019.
- Yang, X. and K. Ma. 2010. Characterization of a thioredoxin-thioredoxin reductase system from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima. J. Bacteriol. 192: 1370–1376.
- Provisional patent application “A thermotable biocatalyst for production of ethanol and stereo-specific compounds” with a serial #: 61/136,714. 2008
- PTA application for “Thermostable alcohol dehydrogenase derived from Thermococcus guaymasensis with a pub # WO/2010/034115 in 2010, and it has a national phase date on March 26, 2011
- US patent 8476051,“Thermostable alcohol dehydrogenase derived from Thermococcus guaymasensis” issued on July 2, 2013 and is valid until March of 2031
Awards and Distinctions
- Research Fellow, Max-Planck Institute, Philipps-Universität Marburg (1985-1986)
- Graduate Scholarship, Academia Sinica, Beijing (1982-1984)
University of Waterloo Affiliations
- Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology
- Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (member)
Professional Associations and Service
- Canadian Society of Microbiologists
- American Society for Microbiology
- International Society for Extremophiles
- Canadian Society for Molecular BioSciences
The following news story has featured Professor Kesen Ma's research:
- May 7, 2001, National Post: “Some like it hot: Strange microorganisms thrive in the most extreme conditions on the planet. They also offer hope for life on other planets”
1989 PhD Microbial Biochemistry, Philipps-Universitat Marburg
1984 MSc Microbiology, Academia Sinica
1982 BSc Microbiology, Wuhan University