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Biotechnol Adv. 2010 May-Jun;28(3):375-84. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

Fermentation of lactose to bio-ethanol by yeasts as part of integrated solutions for the valorisation of cheese whey.

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IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre of Biological Engineering, Universidade do Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal.


Cheese whey, the main dairy by-product, is increasingly recognized as a source of many bioactive valuable compounds. Nevertheless, the most abundant component in whey is lactose (ca. 5% w/v), which represents a significant environmental problem. Due to the large lactose surplus generated, its conversion to bio-ethanol has long been considered as a possible solution for whey bioremediation. In this review, fermentation of lactose to ethanol is discussed, focusing on wild lactose-fermenting yeasts, particularly Kluyveromyces marxianus, and recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains. The early efforts in the screening and characterization of the fermentation properties of wild lactose-consuming yeasts are reviewed. Furthermore, emphasis is given on the latter advances in engineering S. cerevisiae strains for efficient whey-to-ethanol bioprocesses. Examples of industrial implementation are briefly discussed, illustrating the viability of whey-to-ethanol systems. Current developments on strain engineering together with the growing market for biofuels will likely boost the industrial interest in such processes.

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