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


Engineering Microbes to Produce Biodiesel Precursors
Published: September 16, 2011
Posted: January 12, 2012

Biodiesel production typically starts with oil-rich energy crops such as soybean, palm, or rapeseed, which are harvested and converted into fatty acids from which biodiesels or other fuels are derived. The cost of expanding crop production is a limiting factor in allowing biodiesel to compete with fossil fuel sources. One alternative is to avoid the plant entirely and directly synthesize the precursor fatty acids in bacteria, bypassing several upstream steps, reducing production costs, and raising final yields. A team of researchers, including members of the DOE Joint Genome Institute, now has developed a process to engineer bacteria to produce biodiesel with the help of a novel fatty acid synthesis enzyme. The enzyme, identified and characterized from several bacterial sequences, was inserted into the commonly used model microbe E. coli to prove that it was involved in fatty acids synthesis. The fatty acid pathway was further engineered to improve the generation of biodiesel precursors. This new work provides an alternative route for the synthesis of biofuel molecules. The pathway they describe is a first step in the generation of biodiesel and, with further optimization, may lead to the production of a cost-efficient, next-generation biofuel. The results have just been published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Reference: Nawabi, P., S. Bauer, N. Kyrpides, and A. Lykidis. 2011. "Engineering Escherichia coli for Biodiesel Production Utilizing a Bacterial Fatty Acid Methyltransferase," Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77(22), 8052-61. DOI:10.1128/AEM.05046-11

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)
  • 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
Objectives

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

List all highlights (possible long download time)