Unique genetic cassettes in a Thermoanaerobacterium contribute to simultaneous conversion of cellulose and monosugars into butanol

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Science Advances  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, e1701475
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701475

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The demand for cellulosic biofuels is on the rise because of the anticipation for sustainable energy and less greenhouse gas emissions in the future. However, production of cellulosic biofuels, especially cellulosic butanol, has been hampered by the lack of potent microbes that are capable of converting cellulosic biomass into biofuels. We report a wild-type Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum strain TG57, which is capable of using microcrystalline cellulose directly to produce butanol (1.93 g/liter) as the only final product (without any acetone or ethanol produced), comparable to that of engineered microbes thus far. Strain TG57 exhibits significant advances including unique genes responsible for a new butyrate synthesis pathway, no carbon catabolite repression, and the absence of genes responsible for acetone synthesis (which is observed as the main by-product in most Clostridium strains known today). Furthermore, the use of glucose analog 2-deoxyglucose posed a selection pressure to facilitate isolation of strain TG57 with deletion/silencing of carbon catabolite repressor genes—the ccr and xylR genes—and thus is able to simultaneously ferment glucose, xylose, and arabinose to produce butanol (7.33 g/liter) as the sole solvent. Combined analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data revealed unusual aspects of genome organization, numerous determinants for unique bioconversions, regulation of central metabolic pathways, and distinct transcriptomic profiles. This study provides a genome-level understanding of how cellulose is metabolized by T. thermosaccharolyticum and sheds light on the potential of competitive and sustainable biofuel production.

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