BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Microbial Production of Bisabolane, a New Terpene-Based Biofuel
Published: September 27, 2011
Posted: November 02, 2011

Development of next-generation biofuels will require economical production of high-energy compounds that are compatible with existing vehicle engines and fuel distribution infrastructures. To this end, researchers at the DOE Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) have been exploring potential fuel properties of molecules in the terpene family. Many terpene molecules possess properties similar to petroleum-derived fuel compounds, and industrial microbes such as yeast and E. coli have been previously engineered for terpene compound synthesis for pharmaceutical production. In a new study published in Nature Communications, JBEI scientists describe production of the terpene bisabolane, a molecule with fuel properties similar to D2 diesel. After identifying bisabolane as a promising biofuel, the team embarked on a series of targeted genetic modifications to terpene synthesizing E. coli and yeast strains, resulting in microbial production of the compound using simple sugars as the starting material. Unlike other biofuels such as ethanol and isobutanol, bisabolane was found to be relatively nontoxic to the microbes and thus could potentially be produced at higher yields. Efforts are currently underway to screen the fuel properties of biologically produced bisabolane and develop improved fermentation strategies that would enable scaling of production to commercial levels.

Reference: Peralta-Yahya, P. P., M. Ouellet, R. Chan, A. Mukhopadhyay, J. D. Keasling, and T. S. Lee. 2011. "Identification and Microbial Production of a Terpene-Based Advanced Biofuel," Nature Communications 2:483. (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1494) (Reference link)

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)
  • Research Area: Biosystems Design

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)