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

BER Research Highlights

Solving the Mystery of Metabolism in Clostridium acetobutylicum – an Important Biofuel Producer
Published: August 16, 2010
Posted: August 18, 2010

The bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum produces butanol, ethanol, and hydrogen as end products of biomass fermentation and is already has industrial uses. C. acetobutylicum also serves as a model for an important class of soil-based organisms mediating carbon degradation in terrestrial ecosystems. However, scientists have not been able to map this organism’s metabolic processes since the genes encoding several key enzymes necessary for basic cell physiology seem to be missing. DOE scientists at Princeton University have used an innovative approach to resolve this mystery. By following the incorporation of radiolabeled carbon into various intermediate compounds, they identified a unique series of reactions used in carbon conversion and developed the first ever quantitative model of metabolic flux for C. acetobutylicum. These results provide critical information on the pathway used by these organisms to perform important processes in the global carbon cycle and greatly enhance the prospects of being able to engineer Clostridia’s metabolism for biofuels synthesis. The research has just been published on-line in the Journal of Bacteriology.

Reference: D. Amador-Noguez, X.-J. Feng, J. Fan, N. Roquet, H. Rabitz and J. D. Rabinowitz. 2010 “Systems-level metabolic flux profiling elucidates a complete, bifurcated TCA cycle in Clostridium acetobutylicum”, J. Bacteriology, (2010) doi:10.1128/JB.00490-10

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

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: Biosystems Design

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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