Biofuels Production projects
Development of an Oleaginous Yeast Model System
Several oleaginous yeast (Rhodosporidium toruloides, Lipomyces spp., Yarrowia lipo/ytica) are being studied to compare their genetic tractability and lipid productivities. The goal of the project is to identify the best strain for carrying out detailed functional genomic, QTL mapping, and metabolic engineering studies to make fatty acid-derived diesel-like fuels in oleaginous yeast. The team seeks to understand why oleaginous yeast exhibit high flux from glucose to fatty acids. This knowledge will also be used to improve advanced biofuel yields in other yeast hosts, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (started in 2012).
Our initial goal was to choose the "best" oleaginous system for further study. We obtained a diverse collection of oleaginous yeast isolates from public culture collections. All of these yeast isolates were able to accumulate large amounts of lipids after nitrogen starvation and preliminary microscopy confirmed the presence of lipid bodies. We chose to focus on Rhodosporidium toruloides for production of diesel-like fuels. In the process, we a) developed fluorescent methods to quantify lipid production, b) focused on five R. toruloides strains for comparative genomics, and c) began to build a basic genetic toolbox to perform genetic screens, engineer the genome, and perform functional genomic studies.