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Biotechnol Bioeng. 1998 Apr 5;58(2-3):204-14.

Metabolic engineering of bacteria for ethanol production

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Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.


Technologies are available which will allow the conversion of lignocellulose into fuel ethanol using genetically engineered bacteria. Assembling these into a cost-effective process remains a challenge. Our work has focused primarily on the genetic engineering of enteric bacteria using a portable ethanol production pathway. Genes encoding Zymomonas mobilis pyruvate decarboxylase and alcohol dehydrogenase have been integrated into the chromosome of Escherichia coli B to produce strain KO11 for the fermentation of hemicellulose-derived syrups. This organism can efficiently ferment all hexose and pentose sugars present in the polymers of hemicellulose. Klebsiella oxytoca M5A1 has been genetically engineered in a similar manner to produce strain P2 for ethanol production from cellulose. This organism has the native ability to ferment cellobiose and cellotriose, eliminating the need for one class of cellulase enzymes. The optimal pH for cellulose fermentation with this organism (pH 5.0-5.5) is near that of fungal cellulases. The general approach for the genetic engineering of new biocatalysts has been most successful with enteric bacteria thus far. However, this approach may also prove useful with Gram-positive bacteria which have other important traits for lignocellulose conversion. Many opportunities remain for further improvements in the biomass to ethanol processes. These include the development of enzyme-based systems which eliminate the need for dilute acid hydrolysis or other pretreatments, improvements in existing pretreatments for enzymatic hydrolysis, process improvements to increase the effective use of cellulase and hemicellulase enzymes, improvements in rates of ethanol production, decreased nutrient costs, increases in ethanol concentrations achieved in biomass beers, increased resistance of the biocatalysts to lignocellulosic-derived toxins, etc. To be useful, each of these improvements must result in a decrease in the cost for ethanol production.

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