June 24, 2015

Unlocking fermentation secrets open the door to new biofuels

(June 24, 2015)  Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have, for the first time, uncovered the complex interdependence and orchestration of metabolic reactions, gene regulation, and environmental cues of clostridial metabolism, providing new insights for advanced biofuel development

“This work advances our fundamental understanding of the complex, system-level process of clostridial acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation,” explained Ting Lu, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Illinois. “Simultaneously, it provides a powerful tool for guiding strain design and protocol optimization, therefore facilitating the development of next-generation biofuels.”

Microbial metabolism is a means by which a microbe uses nutrients and generates energy to live and reproduce. It typically involves complex biochemical processes implemented through the orchestration of metabolic reactions and gene regulation, as well as their interactions with environmental cues. One canonical example is the ABE fermentation by Clostridium acetobutylicum, during which cells convert carbon sources to organic acids that are later re-assimilated to produce solvents as a strategy for cellular survival.

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