A strain of yeast that thrives on turning sugar cane into ethanol for biofuel has had its genome completely sequenced by researchers at Duke University Medical Center.
"Understanding this microbe may enable more efficient biofuel production, and also will produce even more robust industrial organisms that are versatile and capable of producing advanced biofuels from non-food crops like switchgrass," said Lucas Argueso, Ph.D., lead author and research scholar in the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.
Argueso worked with researchers from Brazil and the University of North Carolina on the study, which was published in Genome Research.
When oil prices crept to new highs in the 1970s, Brazil invested in alternative biofuels created from the country's abundant sugar cane crops. Commercially available baker's yeast was used to break down the sugar cane into ethanol, but genetic tests showed that this yeast quickly disappeared in the harsh environment of industrial fermentation vats. However, a yeast that grows naturally on the sugar cane was still viable in the vats and lasted through many more generations.
This is the yeast strain that Argueso and colleagues studied and mapped, known as PE-2.
"We took an organism that is hugely important from an industrial standpoint but completely unknown in terms of its genetic and molecular properties," Argueso said. "We learned much more about how a complex genome is organized and may contribute to a robust and well-adapted organism."
"Now we have sequenced the genome, so we have a road map that will allow us to build upon its natural abilities," he said. "This opens the door to crossing yeast strains to make even more efficient yeasts for enhanced biofuel production."
Knowing more about what makes yeast hearty will help as biofuel production evolves. In addition to the sugar cane fuels of Brazil, scientists and farmers are also looking into new carbohydrate sources that could easily be farmed in the United States and other areas, since sugar cane farming is limited to warm climates. Switchgrass and giant grass, also known as elephant grass, are possibilities, along with miscanthus grass.
Argueso said the PE-2 genome will aid research into finding the best and strongest yeasts for converting the cellulose in grasses into biofuel, Argueso said.
"I believe this strain has a natural talent for carbohydrate biofuels that have not yet been introduced in the United States," he said. "When the technology is engineered to effectively break down cellulose, I believe this strain of yeast will be an ideal delivery vehicle for that technology."
The study also yielded some interesting genetic information about Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the most studied and utilized yeast species.
"The paper suggests that industrial yeast strains may have a high rate of evolution, helping them adapt to the stressful conditions of batch fermentation," said Tom Petes, Ph.D., senior author and professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University.
PE-2 yeast are what is known as diploid, having two copies each of 16 different chromosomes. In the case of these yeast, the genetic structure lends itself to robust life, Petes says, because the two copies of each chromosome are slightly different. The greatest differences between paired chromosomes occur at the ends of these worm-like structures, making reconfiguration easier and speeding adaptation to evolve.
The study was funded by two grants from the National Institutes of Health, a BRASKEM/FAPESP grant, and support from ETH Bioenergia, a Brazilian company that produces ethanol and sugar from sugar cane.
Other authors include Margaret Dominska and John H. McCusker, of the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology; Fred S. Dietrich, also of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy; and Piotr A. Mieczkowski, of the Department of Genetics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Brazilian scientists also played key roles in the study, including Gonçalo A.G. Pereira, Marcelo F. Carazzolle, Fabiana M. Duarte, Osmar V.C. Netto, Silvia K. Missawa, Felipe Galzerani, Gustavo G.L. Costa, Ramon O. Vidal, Melline F. Noronha, Anderson F. Cunha, Maria G.S. Andrietta and Sílvio R. Andrietta of Campinas State University; and Luiz H. Gomes, Flavio C.A. Tavares, and André R. Alcarde, of the University of São Paulo.
Mary Jane Gore | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences