Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels

18.10.2016

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) have found a way to nearly double the efficiency with which a commonly used industrial yeast strain converts plant sugars to biofuel. The newly engineered "super yeast" could boost the economics of making ethanol, specialty biofuels and bioproducts.

Though Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been the baker's and brewer's yeast of choice for centuries, it poses a unique challenge to researchers using it to make biofuel from cellulosic biomass such as grasses, woods, or the nonfood portion of plants.


Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center researcher Trey Sato monitors yeast cultures in the lab. Sato and UW-Madison colleagues have engineered yeast to feast on a previously unpalatable sugar, potentially improving the microorganism's ability to convert sugars to useful biofuels.

Credit: James Runde/Wisconsin Energy Institute

The world-famous microbe is highly adept at converting a plant's glucose to biofuel but is otherwise a picky eater, ignoring the plant's xylose, a five-carbon sugar that can make up nearly half of all available plant sugars.

"For cellulosic biofuels to become economically feasible, microbes need to be able to convert all of a plant's sugars, including xylose, into fuel," says Trey Sato, the GLBRC study's lead researcher and a UW-Madison associate scientist.

In a study published Friday (Oct. 14, 2016) in the journal PLOS Genetics, Sato and his GLBRC collaborators describe the isolation of specific genetic mutations that allow S. cerevisiae to convert xylose into ethanol, a finding that could transform xylose from a waste product into a source of fuel.

To uncover these genetic mutations, the researchers had to untangle millions of years of evolution, teasing out what led S. cerevisiae to become so selective in its eating habits in the first place.

First, Sato and colleagues gave the yeast a choice akin to eating carrots for dinner or nothing at all, surrounding S. cerevisiae with xylose until it either reevaluated its distaste for xylose or died. It took 10 months and hundreds of generations of "directed evolution" for Sato and his colleagues, including co-corresponding authors Robert Landick, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, and Audrey Gasch, a UW- Madison professor of genetics, to create a strain of S. cerevisiae that could ferment xylose.

Once the researchers had isolated the super yeast they named GLBRCY128, they also needed to understand exactly how the evolution had occurred in order to replicate it. Gasch compared Y128's genome to the original strain, combing through the approximately 5,200 genes of each to find four gene mutations responsible for the adapted behavior. To verify their finding, the researchers manually deleted these mutations from the parent strain, producing the same result.

Sato says this work could enable a wide variety of biofuels research going forward. With the technique for making Y128 published, researchers are free to make it themselves for the purposes of applying it to new biomass pretreatment technologies or to different plant materials. "Scientists won't need to adapt their research to the process that we're doing here," he says. "They can just take our technology and make their own strain."

Future research may also focus on the super yeast's potentially powerful role in creating specialty biofuels and bioproducts.

"We want to take this strain and make higher-order molecules that can be further converted into jet fuels or something like isobutanol, lipids or diesel fuel," says Sato. "And if we know how to better metabolize carbon, including xylose, anybody in theory should be able to rewire or change metabolic pathways to produce a variety of biofuel products."

--Mark E. Griffin, (608) 890-2168, mark.griffin@wisc.edu

DOWNLOAD PHOTOS: https://uwmadison.box.com/v/super-yeast

Trey Sato | EurekAlert!

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University

nachricht TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>