Michael Thelen

Contact information

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
7000 East Avenue, L-452
Livermore, CA 94550

Bulding 361, Room 1241
email: mthelen@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


Our research is focused on microbes and microbial processes in the environment that are relevant to bioenergy. We are especially interested in how molecular mechanisms are specialized for survival in extreme conditions and for functions essential to the organism and community. These include extracellular polymer synthesis and biofilm formation, carbon excretion and assimilation, beneficial interactions with minerals, and resistance to toxic substances. 

Recent projects have concentrated on marine cyanobacterial biofilms, algae-bacterial interactions, microbial degradation of plant lignocellulose, and engineering microbes for more efficient biofuel production. Several projects involve collaborations with faculty at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz, and scientists at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and NASA Ames Research Center.

Recent Publications

C-W Yu, BA Simmons, SW Singer, MP Thelen, J VanderGheynst (2016) Ionic liquid tolerant microorganisms and microbial communities for lignocellulose conversion to bioproducts. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology 100, 10237-49 (invited) (doi: 10.1007/s00253-016-7955-0)

CM Gionfriddo, MT Tate, RR Wick, MB Schultz, A Zemla, MP Thelen, R Schofield, DP Krabbenhoft, KE Holt, JW Moreau (2016) Microbial mercury methylation in Antarctic sea ice. Nature Microbiology 1, 16127. (doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.127)  
    - Synopsis: E Sunderland, AT Schartup (2016) Mercury methylation on ice. Nature Microbiology 1, 16165. (doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.165)

RK Stuart, X Mayali, AA Boaro, A Zemla, RC Everroad, D Nilson, PK Weber, M Lipton, BM Bebout, J Pett-Ridge, MP Thelen (2016) Light Regimes Shape Utilization of Extracellular Organic C and N in a Cyanobacterial Biofilm. mBio 7: e00650-16. (doi: 10.1128/mBio.00650-16)

S Pace, SJ Ceballos, D Harrold, W Stannard, BA Simmons, SW Singer, MP Thelen, JS VanderGheynst (2016) Enrichment of microbial communities tolerant to the ionic liquids tetrabutylphosphonium chloride and tributylethylphosphonium diethylphosphate. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 100: 5639-52.
(doi: 10.1007/s00253-016-7525-5)

RK Stuart, X Mayali, JZ Lee, CR Everroad, M Hwang, BM Bebout, PK Weber, J Pett-Ridge, MP Thelen (2016) Cyanobacterial reuse of extracellular organic carbon in microbial mats. ISME J. 2016 May;10(5):1240-51. (doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.180)

CW Simmons, AP Reddy, P D’haeseleer, J Khudyakov, K Billis, A Pati, BA Simmons, SW Singer, MP Thelen, JS VanderGheynst (2014) Metatranscriptomic analysis of lignocellulolytic microbial communities involved in high-solids decomposition of rice straw. Biotechnology for Biofuels 7: 495. (doi: 10.1186/s13068-014-0180-0)

Frederix M, Hutter K, Leu J, Batth TS, Turner WJ, Rüegg TL, Blanch H, Simmons BA, Adams PD, Keasling JD, Thelen MP, Dunlop MJ, Petzold CJ, Mukhopadhyay A (2014) Development of a native Escherichia coli induction system for ionic liquid tolerance. PLoS ONE 9, e101115

Qian F, Wang H, Ling Y, Wang G, Thelen MP, Li Y (2014) Photoenhanced electrochemical interaction between Shewanella and a hematite nanowire photoanode.
Nano Letters 14, 3688-93

Rüegg TL, Kim E-M, Simmons BA, Keasling JD, Singer SW, Lee TS, Thelen MP (2014) An auto-inducible mechanism for ionic liquid resistance in microbial biofuel production. Nature Communications 5, 3490

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