Biofuels Production projects

Bioengineering and Selection for Biodiesel Production in Bacteria - Completed

This project evaluated the potential for engineering microbial strains that will produce biodiesel precursors — TAGs (triacylglycerols) or FFAs (free fatty acids) — leading to lower cost production. The group combined biochemical and metabolic engineering with experimental evolution to generate bacteria with enhanced capabilities of FFA, TAG or fatty acid alkyl esters (FAAE) production in E. coli. This type of bacterial engineering for bio-oil production entails the transfer of genes from very divergent lineages.

project Highlights

2010 Highlights

Lykidis’s team identified a novel bacterial fatty acid methyltransferase (FAMT), which catalyzes the formation of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs)(biodiesel) and 3-hydroxyl fatty acid methyl esters (3-OH-FAMEs) utilizing fatty acids and S-adenosyl methionine (AdoMet).  They also identified bacterial members of the fatty acyl-ACP thioesterase (FAT) enzyme family with distinct acyl chain specificities. These bacterial FATs generate free fatty acids and 3-OH-FFAs, which can subsequently be used by FAMT to produce FAMEs and 3-OH-FAMEs.

2009 Highlights

Lykidis’s group modified cellular pathways that interface with fatty acid biosynthesis and lead to increased FFA production. These engineered strains accumulate large amounts of FFAs, and experiments are under way to determine the cellular response to FFA accumulation. Lykidis’s group also identified and characterized novel bacterial enzymes that participate in TAG synthesis (precursor molecules to biodiesel) and are currently evaluating their potential for use in biofuel production. They also have identified novel enzymes whose expression in E. coli leads to the synthesis of FAAEs, which bypasses the transesterification and subsequent purification steps normally required, increasing energy yield and decreasing price.

 


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