Enhanced Ethanol Tolerance Achieved in a Lignocellulose Degrading Microbe


Improving microbial tolerance for high concentrations of the biofuels they produce is highly desirable. Increased tolerance means that more fuel can be produced in smaller microbial culture volumes, with considerable savings as well in the distillation of the fuel from the culture medium. The microbe Clostridium phytofermentans degrades lignocellulose and produces alcohol and is being commercialized by DOE SBIR Phase II grantee Sunethanol. George Church, funded by DOE’s Genomics: GTL program at Harvard Medical School, is providing scientific expertise in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to the company.  The two groups are applying their complementary capabilities to biofuels research.  A beneficial initial outcome of this collaboration is a doubling of ethanol tolerance of the microbe to 8% by volume.