Yeast physiology studies and metabolic engineering for enhanced robustness
Conference contribution, 2014
The extensive research on second-generation ethanol has paved the way to a new concept of bio-based industry, where lignocellulosic material is the primary source of sugars, to be converted to a number of fuels and chemicals. Sugars are released from cellulose and hemicellulose by pretreatment and hydrolysis steps. Harsh conditions during pretreatment promote the formation of a number of inhibitory compounds, among which weak organic acids, furaldehydes and phenolic compounds. In addition, the product of interest can act as a potent inhibitor. Regardless of the product, robust microorganisms are a prerequisite for the feasibility of lignocellulose-based bioprocesses.
Current research carried out by our group focuses on the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and aims at investigating the molecular bases of microbial robustness. Our efforts include the identification of the molecular targets of different classes of fermentation inhibitors aiming at understanding the complex responses of the cells to these compounds. The final goal is to engineer more robust strains. The concept of robustness will be discussed and examples of key features for S. cerevisiae robustness as well as examples of successful engineering to increase robustness will be presented.
In particular, during this presentation, the following results will be discussed i) the study of redox and energy metabolism as key determinants of tolerance; ii) conversion routes of in S. cerevisiae as a way of detoxification from phenolic compounds; iii) cell membrane engineering as a strategy to achieve enhanced tolerance to weak acids.