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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Jul;91(2):435-46. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3344-x. Epub 2011 Jun 4.

Bacterial production of free fatty acids from freshwater macroalgal cellulose.

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Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, 1550 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The predominant strategy for using algae to produce biofuels relies on the overproduction of lipids in microalgae with subsequent conversion to biodiesel (methyl-esters) or green diesel (alkanes). Conditions that both optimize algal growth and lipid accumulation rarely overlap, and differences in growth rates can lead to wild species outcompeting the desired lipid-rich strains. Here, we demonstrate an alternative strategy in which cellulose contained in the cell walls of multicellular algae is used as a feedstock for cultivating biofuel-producing microorganisms. Cellulose was extracted from an environmental sample of Cladophora glomerata-dominated periphyton that was collected from Lake Mendota, WI, USA. The resulting cellulose cake was hydrolyzed by commercial enzymes to release fermentable glucose. The hydrolysis mixture was used to formulate an undefined medium that was able to support the growth, without supplementation, of a free fatty acid (FFA)-overproducing strain of Escherichia coli (Lennen et. al 2010). To maximize free fatty acid production from glucose, an isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG)-inducible vector was constructed to express the Umbellularia californica acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) thioesterase. Thioesterase expression was optimized by inducing cultures with 50 μM IPTG. Cell density and FFA titers from cultures grown on algae-based media reached 50% of those (∼90 μg/mL FFA) cultures grown on rich Luria-Bertani broth supplemented with 0.2% glucose. In comparison, cultures grown in two media based on AFEX-pretreated corn stover generated tenfold less FFA than cultures grown in algae-based media. This study demonstrates that macroalgal cellulose is a potential carbon source for the production of biofuels or other microbially synthesized compounds.

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