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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Feb;93(4):1423-35. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3762-9. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

Developing symbiotic consortia for lignocellulosic biofuel production.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The search for petroleum alternatives has motivated intense research into biological breakdown of lignocellulose to produce liquid fuels such as ethanol. Degradation of lignocellulose for biofuel production is a difficult process which is limited by, among other factors, the recalcitrance of lignocellulose and biological toxicity of the products. Consolidated bioprocessing has been suggested as an efficient and economical method of producing low value products from lignocellulose; however, it is not clear whether this would be accomplished more efficiently with a single organism or community of organisms. This review highlights examples of mixtures of microbes in the context of conceptual models for developing symbiotic consortia for biofuel production from lignocellulose. Engineering a symbiosis within consortia is a putative means of improving both process efficiency and stability relative to monoculture. Because microbes often interact and exist attached to surfaces, quorum sensing and biofilm formation are also discussed in terms of consortia development and stability. An engineered, symbiotic culture of multiple organisms may be a means of assembling a novel combination of metabolic capabilities that can efficiently produce biofuel from lignocellulose.

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