Super-yeast generates ethanol from energy crops and agricultural residues

Jun 15, 2010

A new type of baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) has been developed which can efficiently ferment pentose sugars, as found in agricultural waste and hardwoods. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Biotechnology for Biofuels describe the creation of the new S. cerevisiae strain, TMB3130, which demonstrated significantly improved aerobic growth rate and final biomass concentration on sugar media composed of two pentoses, xylose and arabinose.

Marie Gorwa-Grauslund, from Lund University, Sweden, worked with an international team of researchers to generate the novel micro-organism. She said, "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report that characterizes molecular mechanisms for improved mixed-pentose utilization obtained by evolutionary engineering of a recombinant S. cerevisiae strain".

Normal baker's yeast cannot pentose sugars at all. By inserting the required genes from other and bacteria it is possible to make a relatively inefficient transgenic strain that can ferment pentose sugars. Gorwa-Grauslund and her colleagues took one of these recombinant strains, TMB3061, and grew it on a mixture of xylose and arabinose sugars in order to select a stable population most capable of metabolising the pentose .

She said, "There is considerable interest in developing 'second-generation' biofuels to refine and upgrade non-food material, especially dedicated energy crops and agricultural residues such as straw, bagasse, stover and corn hulls. Our yeast demonstrates a significant step towards this goal."

Explore further: New patenting guidelines are needed for biotechnology

More information: Improved xylose and arabinose utilization by an industrial recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain using evolutionary engineering
Rosa Garcia Sanchez, Kaisa Karhumaa, César Fonseca, Violeta Sànchez Nogué, João RM Almeida, Christer U Larsson, Oskar Bengtsson, Maurizio Bettiga, Bärbel Hahn-Hägerdal and Marie F Gorwa-Grauslund, Biotechnology for Biofuels (in press), www.biotechnologyforbiofuels.com/

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User comments : 7

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TJ_alberta
5 / 5 (3) Jun 15, 2010
kevinrtrs: how much time have you spent in genetics and microbiology labs? I believe what is described in the article is a pretty standard procedure for this type of work, and has been for decades. Maybe you know it by another name?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Jun 15, 2010
If it's going to be evolution, it cannot be designed on purpose, it must be something that happens by chance.
Evolution doesn't happen by chance. You have a distinct misconception of how evolution works. I've shown you your errors repeatedly and you fail to pay attention. At this point in time I think Physorg should be banning your account for pseudoscience. As such you'll be flagged when appropriate going forward. That is, after I post a reasonable rebuttal, just in case someone reads your tripe and becomes confused as you obviously are.
daveib6
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2010
Well put Skeptic. I heartily agree. I have reported this confused intelligence challenged submitter before as well. Some people will never learn! Take evangelizing creationists for example. Or any dogma for that matter. Let us please leave our dogmatic views out of a scientific discussion, okay?
SteveL
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
One of the "waste products" from algae BioDiesel is the plant matter after the oil has been extracted. I wonder if that matter has remaining sugars that can be fermented or digested to create methanol - a required additive for bio-diesel production. If so that could make an algae-based fuel process even more productive.
xamien
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
Is it too much to hope, then, for a yeast that more efficiently ferments beer? :D Think of the revolution in the beer industry! This here doesn't sound like food-grade ethanol, though.
david_42
not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
Evolutionary engineering is a simple concept: You place organisms in an environment that forces the selection of designed and spontaneous mutations that fit the environment. Splicing genes into the yeast yielded something that could use specific sugars, not well, but they could survive. Forcing the environment allows that cells with other advantageous adaptations to dominate.

xamien - much of the flavor in beer is from sugars that the yeast do not ferment. If you want an example of more efficient fermentation, buy any lite/low-carb beer. Nothing left except alcohol, water and a little color.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Jun 20, 2010
On the one hand....good news, perhaps now waste products will be put to better use.

On the other hand...what's the danger of this yeast getting into the food supply and people eating it. Already yeast is a cause of allergic reactions in many people, so if this one gets into people's food by whatever means it'll simply add to the burdens we face already.

evolutionary engineering ???

Why, oh, why did this have to be stated here?

Sure you can believe in evolution but please don't trash-talk the normal bio-engineering process with this nonsense. If it's going to be evolution, it cannot be designed on purpose, it must be something that happens by chance. So the statement "evolutionary engineering" is an oxymoron.


So you are put in charge of the development of alternative fuels, noting such disasters as the Exxon Valdeze and the present gulf oil rig disaster, want to develop these yeasts, would you halt research on it because someone calls the process 'evolution'?

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