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Microb Cell Fact. 2005 Aug 25;4:25.

Organic acid toxicity, tolerance, and production in Escherichia coli biorefining applications.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, UCB424/ECCH120, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


Organic acids are valuable platform chemicals for future biorefining applications. Such applications involve the conversion of low-cost renewable resources to platform sugars, which are then converted to platform chemicals by fermentation and further derivatized to large-volume chemicals through conventional catalytic routes. Organic acids are toxic to many of the microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli, proposed to serve as biorefining platform hosts at concentrations well below what is required for economical production. The toxicity is two-fold including not only pH based growth inhibition but also anion-specific effects on metabolism that also affect growth. E. coli maintain viability at very low pH through several different tolerance mechanisms including but not limited to the use of decarboxylation reactions that consume protons, ion transporters that remove protons, increased expression of known stress genes, and changing membrane composition. The focus of this mini-review is on organic acid toxicity and associated tolerance mechanisms as well as several examples of successful organic acid production processes for E. coli.

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