Michael Thelen

Contact information

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
7000 East Avenue, L-367
Livermore, CA 94550
email: thelen1@llnl.gov
phone: 925 422 6547


Ph.D., Biochemistry, Cambridge University, England
M.A., Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley
B.A., Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley


I lead projects that are focused on microbial community function, involving microbial adaptation in unusual niche environments. Proteins specialized for such conditions are important in processes that are essential to the organism and community. These include biofilm formation as it pertains to extracellular polymer synthesis and carbon metabolism, resource acquisition via secreted enzymes, and resistance to toxic small molecules in the environment.

My research is carried out in the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division at LLNL, and at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville. I have collaborations on several projects with faculty at UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and the NASA Ames Research Center. At LLNL, I focus on bioenergy-related lignocellulose degradation and bacterial hydrogen production, using plant and microbial systems biology. At JBEI, my team uses bacterial transcriptomics and functional screening of large insert libraries for biofuel-relevant microbial processes, including ionic liquid tolerance and lignin degradation.

Recent Publications

Reddy AP, Simmons CW, D'haeseleer P, Khudyakov J, Burd H, Hadi M, Simmons BA, Singer SW, Thelen MP, VanderGheynst JS (2013) Discovery of microorganisms and enzymes involved in high-solids decomposition of rice straw using metagenomic analyses. PLoS ONE 8, e77985

Lacayo CI, Hwang MS, Ding SY, Thelen MP (2013) Lignin depletion enhances the digestibility of cellulose in cultured xylem cells. PLoS ONE 8, e68266

Blanchette C, Lacayo CI, Fischer NO, Hwang M, Thelen MP (2012) Enhanced cellulose degradation using cellulase-nanosphere complexes. PLoS ONE 7, e42116

Reyes C, Qian F, Zhang A, Bondarev S, Welch A, Thelen MP, Saltikov CW (2012) Characterization of axial and proximal histidine mutations of the decaheme cytochrome MtrA from Shewanella str. ANA-3: Implications for the electron transport mechanism. Journal of Bacteriology 194, 5840-7

Chen Z, Friedland GD, Pereira JH, Reveco SA, Chan R, Park JI, Thelen MP, Adams PD, Arkin AP, Keasling JD, Blanch HW, Simmons BA, Sale KL, Chivian D, Chhabra SR (2012) Tracing determinants of dual substrate specificity in glycoside hydrolase family 5. Journal of Biological Chemistry 287, 25335-43

Khudyakov JI, D'haeseleer P, Borglin SE, Deangelis KM, Woo H, Lindquist EA, Hazen TC, Simmons BA, Thelen MP (2012) Global transcriptome response to ionic liquid by a tropical rainforest soil bacterium, Enterobacter lignolyticus. PNAS 109, E2173-82; Author Summary: PNAS 109, 12856-7

Jiao Y, Navid A, Stewart BJ, McKinlay JB, Thelen MP, Pett-Ridge J (2012) Syntrophic metabolism of a co-culture containing Clostridium cellulolyticum and Rhodopseudomonas palustris for hydrogen productionInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy 37, 11719-26

Wheeler KE, Erickson B, Mueller R, Singer SW, VerBerkmoes NC, Hwang M, Thelen MP, Hettich RL (2012) Metal affinity enrichment increases the MS proteomics identification of extracellular microbial proteins. Journal of Proteome Research 11, 861-70

Lange J, Pan J, Cole F, Thelen MP, Jasin M, Keeney S (2011) ATM controls meiotic double-strand break formation. Nature 479, 237-40

Qian F, He Z, Thelen MP, Li Y (2011) A microfluidic microbial fuel cell fabricated by soft lithography.
Bioresource Technology 102, 5836-40

Yelton AP, Thomas BC, Simmons SL, Wilmes P, Zemla A, Thelen MP, Justice N, Banfield JF (2011) A semi-quantitative, synteny-based method to improve functional predictions for hypothetical and poorly annotated Bacterial and Archaeal genes. PLoS Computational Biology 7, e1002230

Jiao Y, D'haeseleer P, Dill BD, Shah M, VerBerkmoes NC, Hettich RL, Banfield JF, Thelen MP (2011) Identification of biofilm matrix associated proteins from an acid mine drainage microbial community. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77, 5230–37

Lacayo CI, Malkin AJ, Holman HY, Chen L, Ding SY, Hwang MS, Thelen MP (2010) Imaging cell wall architecture in single Zinnia elegans tracheary elements. Plant Physiology 154, 121-33 (Cover article)

Wheeler KE, Zemla A, Jiao Y, Goltsman DSA, Singer SW, Banfield JF, Thelen MP (2010) Functional insights from computational modeling of orphan proteins expressed in a microbial community. Journal of Proteomics and Bioinformatics 3, 266-74

Singer SW, Erickson BK, VerBerkmoes NC, Hwang M, Shah MB, Hettich RL, Banfield JF, Thelen MP (2010) Post-translational modification and sequence variation of redox-active proteins correlate with biofilm lifecycle in natural microbial communities. The ISME Journal 4, 1398-409

Jiao Y, Cody GD, Harding AK, Wilmes P, Schrenk M, Wheeler KE, Banfield JF, Thelen MP (2010) Characterization of extracellular polymeric substances from acidophilic microbial biofilms. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 76, 2916-22