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Engineered microbial systems for enhanced conversion of lignocellulosic biomass

James G Elkins, Babu Raman, Martin Keller
Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2010, 21 (5): 657-62
20579868
In order for plant biomass to become a viable feedstock for meeting the future demand for liquid fuels, efficient and cost-effective processes must exist to breakdown cellulosic materials into their primary components. A one-pot conversion strategy or, consolidated bioprocessing, of biomass into ethanol would provide the most cost-effective route to renewable fuels and the realization of this technology is being actively pursued by both multi-disciplinary research centers and industrialists working at the very cutting edge of the field. Although a diverse range of bacteria and fungi possess the enzymatic machinery capable of hydrolyzing plant-derived polymers, none discovered so far meet the requirements for an industrial strength biocatalyst for the direct conversion of biomass to combustible fuels. Synthetic biology combined with a better fundamental understanding of enzymatic cellulose hydrolysis at the molecular level is enabling the rational engineering of microorganisms for utilizing cellulosic materials with simultaneous conversion to fuel.

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