Metabolic engineering applications to renewable resource utilization

A Aristidou, M Penttilä
Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2000, 11 (2): 187-98
Lignocellulosic materials containing cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are the most abundant renewable organic resource on earth. The utilization of renewable resources for energy and chemicals is expected to increase in the near future. The conversion of both cellulose (glucose) and hemicellulose (hexose and pentose) for the production of fuel ethanol is being studied intensively, with a view to developing a technically and economically viable bioprocess. Whereas the fermentation of glucose can be carried out efficiently, the bioconversion of the pentose fraction (xylose and arabinose, the main pentose sugars obtained on hydrolysis of hemicellulose), presents a challenge. A lot of attention has therefore been focused on genetically engineering strains that can efficiently utilize both glucose and pentoses, and convert them to useful compounds, such as ethanol. Metabolic strategies seek to generate efficient biocatalysts (bacteria and yeast) for the bioconversion of most hemicellulosic sugars to products that can be derived from the primary metabolism, such as ethanol. The metabolic engineering objectives so far have focused on higher yields, productivities and expanding the substrate and product spectra.


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