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Fuel ethanol production by the fastest eukaryote on the planet

Abstract

Fuel ethanol production in Brazil is a well established industrial process, of fundamental importance for the country's economy and environment. This biofuel may be utilized in pure form in the whole light vehicles fleet equiped with flex motors, besides being added to gasoline in proportions higher than 25%. Improvements in the industrial process used for fuel ethanol production are needed in the current reality, in which companies are facing enormous difficulties in keeping their business profitable. The ethanolic fermentation step has traditionally been carried out with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which possesses two key properties that made it the organism of choice: high tolerance to ethanol (concentrations surpass 10% at the end of a typical fermentation) and capacity to grow under full anaerobiosis. Besides this, due to the non-aseptic nature of this process, tolerance to very low pH (1.5 to 2.0) is also crutial, since a sulfuric acid treatment is applied between two consecutive fermentation cycles, during repitching, with the aim of selectively decreasing the bacterial load. The process is typically conducted at temperatures between 32 and 35 oC and in order to keep the temperature within this range cooling of the fermentation medium in the vats becomes necessary, due to the heat naturally released during microbial activity. One alternative to this classic process would be to conduct the fermentation at higher temperatures, around 48 oC, which would present at least the following advantages: decrease the contamination levels (the typical contaminants are mesophilic and would have their activity drastically decreased, if not eliminated, at this temperature) and decrease cooling costs (as the fermentation temperature would be more distant from the outside temperature). To make such an option possible, a microorganism is necessary that converts sugars to ethanol at this elevated temperature, with high tolerance to ethanol, capable of growing under full anaerobiosis and tolerant to low pH values. In the present research proposal, we intend to evaluate different strains of the yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus, the fastest eukaryote on the planet, aiming at identifying one strain that combines all these features. After an initial screening of several strains, the ones presenting properties closest to those listed above will be identified and modified by metabolic and evolutionary engineering strategies. We hope to obtain, at the end of the project, one strain which is capable of converting sugars to ethanol at 48 oC, under full anaerobiosis, with high yields and productivities for ethanol. (AU)

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Scientific publications (6)
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
VALE DA COSTA, BRUNO LABATE; RAGHAVENDRAN, VIJAYENDRAN; MERCIER FRANCO, LUIS FERNANDO; CHAVES FILHO, ADRIANO DE BRITTO; YOSHINAGA, MARCOS YUKIO; MIYAMOTO, SAYURI; BASSO, THIAGO OLITTA; GOMBERT, ANDREAS KAROLY. Forever panting and forever growing: physiology of Saccharomyces cerevisiae at extremely low oxygen availability in the absence of ergosterol and unsaturated fatty acids. FEMS Yeast Research, v. 19, n. 6, . (15/14109-0, 18/17172-2)
RAGHAVENDRAN, VIJAYENDRAN; BASSO, THALITA PEIXOTO; DA SILVA, JULIANA BUENO; BASSO, LUIZ CARLOS; GOMBERT, ANDREAS KAROLY. A simple scaled down system to mimic the industrial production of first generation fuel ethanol in Brazil. ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GENERAL AND MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY, v. 110, n. 7, p. 971-983, . (15/14109-0)
GOMBERT, ANDREAS K.; MADEIRA, JR., JOSE VALDO; CERDAN, MARIA-ESPERANZA; GONZALEZ-SISO, MARIA-ISABEL. Kluyveromyces marxianus as a host for heterologous protein synthesis. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, v. 100, n. 14, p. 6193-6208, . (15/14109-0)
PENDON, MARIA DOLORES; MADEIRA, JR., JOSE V.; ROMANIN, DAVID E.; RUMBO, MARTIN; GOMBERT, ANDREAS K.; GARROTE, GRACIELA L.. A biorefinery concept for the production of fuel ethanol, probiotic yeast, and whey protein from a by-product of the cheese industry. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, v. 105, n. 9, . (15/14109-0, 15/26072-3, 16/50444-0)
VALE DA COSTA, BRUNO LABATE; BASSO, THIAGO OLITTA; RAGHAVENDRAN, VIJAYENDRAN; GOMBERT, ANDREAS KAROLY. Anaerobiosis revisited: growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae under extremely low oxygen availability. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, v. 102, n. 5, p. 2101-2116, . (15/14109-0)

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