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Biotechnol J. 2012 Feb;7(2):186-98. doi: 10.1002/biot.201100059. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Butanol production from renewable biomass: rediscovery of metabolic pathways and metabolic engineering.

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Metabolic and Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (BK21 Program), BioProcess Engineering Research Center, Center for Systems and Synthetic Biotechnology, Institute for the BioCentury, KAIST, Republic of Korea.


Biofuel from renewable biomass is one of the answers to help solve the problems associated with limited fossil resources and climate change. Butanol has superior liquid-fuel characteristics, with similar properties to gasoline, and thus, has the potential to be used as a substitute for gasoline. Clostridia are recognized as a good butanol producers and are employed in the industrial-scale production of solvents. Due to the difficulty of performing genetic manipulations on clostridia, however, strain improvement has been rather slow. Furthermore, complex metabolic characteristics of acidogenesis followed by solventogenesis in this strain have hampered the development of engineered clostridia strains with highly efficient and selective butanol-production capabilities. In recent years, the butanol-producing characteristics in clostridia have been further characterized and alternative pathways discovered. More recently, systems-level metabolic engineering approaches were taken to develop superior strains. Herein, we review recent discoveries of metabolic pathways for butanol production and the metabolic engineering strategies being developed.

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