Biofuels Production programs

Engineering Oleaginous Yeast for Large-Scale Biodiesel Production

Oleaginous yeast are promising organisms for the production of lignocellulosic biodiesel, as they can accumulate upwards of 80% of their dry weight as lipids. While these organisms possess unique properties that make them ideal in many ways for producing lipids, their applicability for large-scale biodiesel production is limited because these organisms are obligate aerobes. Fermentors need to be sparged with air at exceedingly high rates, thereby limiting the economic feasibility of large-scale processes. This project aims to reduce the oxygen demand during the production of biodiesel precursors in yeast (started in 2012).

program Highlights

2013 Highlights

The goal of this program is to develop oleaginous yeast for the production of diesel-like molecules. Oleaginous yeast are promising organisms for the production of lignocellulosic biodiesel as they can accumulate upwards of 80 percent of their dry weight as lipids. While these organisms possess unique properties that make them ideal in many ways for producing lipids, their applicability for large-scale biodiesel production is limited primarily because these organisms are obligate aerobes. From a production standpoint, this limits the economic feasibility of large-scale processes. To improve the efficiency of lipid production in yeast, we are pursuing two complementary aims: 1) reduce the oxygen demand in the model oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica by reprogramming fatty acid biosynthesis, and 2) developing the oleaginous Rhodosporidium toruloides for the efficient production of lipids. In addition, we are engineering Saccharomyces cervisiae to produce diesel-like molecules under fermentative conditions by adapting the core design from an oleaginous microorganism.

2012 Highlights

Oleaginous yeast are promising organisms for the production of lignocellulosic biodiesel as they can accumulate upwards of 80% of their dry weight as lipids. The challenge is that all oleaginous microorganisms are obligate aerobes. The prodigious rates of lipid production are highly dependent on dissolved oxygen concentrations – when oxygen becomes limiting, these organisms barely produce lipids at all. The overall goal of this project is to enable yeast to produce diesel-like molecules under reduced oxygen demand. We are exploring a number of approaches for reducing the oxygen demand in oleaginous yeast. In parallel, we are also developing genetic tools for engineering species of oleaginous yeast with naturally high lipid productivities and that can grow on a wide range of carbohydrates include C5, C6, and C12 sugars.


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