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Genes and Mechanisms for Improving Cellulosic Ethanol Production in E. Coli

University of Colorado

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Technology Marketing Summary

Cellulosic biomass accounts for roughly 75% of all plant material, and can be used to produce biofuels. Sources of cellulosic biomass include agricultural plant waste, organic waste from industrial processes, and crops grown specifically for fuel production. Biological conversion makes use of enzymes and microorganisms to convert pretreated cellulosic biomass into biofuels. In particular, Escherichia coli is a well-studied micro-organism commonly used in large-scale fermentations. In addition to biofuels, E. coli is capable of mass-producing platform chemicals as a replacement for traditional petrochemicals. Pretreatment of cellulosic biomass produces inhibitory compounds such as acetate and furfural; these compounds reduce fermentation efficiency, resulting in higher production costs. Engineering hardier biocatalysts to produce fuels and chemicals faster and cheaper is vital for biofuel and biorefining applications.

Description

A research group led by Dr. Ryan Gill of the University of Colorado has utilized genome-wide tools and analysis techniques to engineer bacterial strains with increased tolerance to acetate, furfural and ethanol, as well as strains with increased general tolerance to cellulosic hydrolysate. Acetate and furfural tolerance are important for efficient conversion of pretreated cellulosic biomass, and ethanol tolerance is important for the production of ethanol as a biofuel.

Some important ways tolerance has been engineered include: relieving metabolic burden of inhibited biosynthetic pathways, reducing the intracellular concentration of the inhibitory compound, and thwarting entrance of toxic compounds into the cell. This technology offers bacterial strains capable of tolerating industrially-relevant concentrations of acetate, furfural, and ethanol, along with other inhibitors found in cellulosic hydrolysate.

Benefits
  • Hardier organisms with increased growth and production potential
  • Cost-efficient process for turning cellulosic biomass into useable biofuels and other bio-products like aldehydes and acetate.
  • Can be applied to any bacteria capable of producing biofuels and other bio-products

 

Applications and Industries
  • Production of biofuels
  • Biorefining applications
More Information

Methods, Compositions and Use for Enhancing Chemical Tolerance by Micro-organisms. US regular application filed April 30, 2010; related continuation-in-part filed Aug. 14, 2012.

Elucidating acetate tolerance in E. coli using a genome-wide approach. Metab Eng. 2011 Mar;13(2):214-24. PDF available upon request.

 

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Date
Application 20100317115
Application
20100317115
METHODS, COMPOSITIONS AND USES FOR ENHANCING CHEMICAL TOLERANCE BY MICROORGANISMS
Embodiments herein concern compositions and methods for enhancing chemical tolerance of biomass conversion by microorganisms. In some embodiments, enhancing tolerance of biomass hydrolysate conversion includes enhancing tolerance to low molecular weight organic compounds.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 04/30/2010
Filed
Application 20130217132
Application
20130217132
METHODS, COMPOSITIONS AND USE FOR ENHANCING CHEMICAL TOLERANCE BY MICROORGANISMS
Embodiments herein concern compositions and methods for enhancing chemical tolerance of biomass conversion by microorganisms. In some embodiments, enhancing tolerance of biomass hydrolysate conversion includes enhancing tolerance to low molecular weight organic compounds.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 08/14/2012
Filed
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
CU2104BDevelopmentAvailable08/30/201010/17/2013

Contact CU About This Technology

To: Lola Underwood<lola.underwood@cu.edu>