APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Biofuel production
- Renewable chemical production
- Improves the commercial viability of microbially produced biofuels
- Approximately doubles the yield of
- Soluble sugars from biomass
- Biofuels from fermentation reactions
Many biofuel companies pretreat biomass with an ionic liquid (IL) to separate lignin from cellulose fibers. However, low levels of IL remaining after pretreatment inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli, that are used to convert cellulose into biofuels. To address this issue, researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered microorganisms to be resistant to ILs. By increasing the yield of soluble sugars and biofuels by at least two times, the invention can provide a valuable contribution to making microbially produced biofuels commercially viable.
The JBEI researchers are the first to identify six bacterial genes consisting of a Major Facilitator Superfamily (MFS) pump and five Small Multidrug Resistance (SMR) pumps shown to protect E. coli from ILs, and two IL-tolerant yeast genes consisting of an MFS pump and a gene of unknown function. The researchers found that the bacterial pumps occur in tandem with transcriptional regulators that adjust pump levels in response to changing IL concentrations. The researchers have also developed a technique for engineering microorganisms with genes encoding either IL-resistant MFS or SMR proteins.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Thomas L. Ruegg, Eun-Mi Kim, Blake A. Simmons, Jay D. Keasling, Steven W. Singer, Taek Soon Lee, and Michael P. Thelen, “An auto-inducible mechanism for ionic liquid resistance in microbial biofuel production,” Nature Communications, March 26, 2014, 5:3490. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4490.
REFERENCE NUMBER: 2013-120