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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Renewable Product Technology Research

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The broad goal of this project is to improve the biochemical processes for converting agricultural materials to fuels and chemicals, which will consequently enable cost reductions and increase profitability of biorefining. Research will focus on significant technical challenges that must be overcome to achieve cost-competitive conversion of agricultural feedstocks to biofuels. Objective 1: Develop commercially-viable technologies based on novel deconstruction enzymes for hydrolyzing ligno-cellulose. Objective 2: Develop, via genetic engineering, strains of pentose-utilizing gram-positive bacteria that enable commercially-viable processes for producing fuel-grade ethanol or butanol from ligno-cellulosic hydrolyzates. Objective 3: Develop commercially-preferred methods for preventing, detecting, controlling, and/or correcting economically-harmful microbial contamination in ethanol production facilities. Objective 4: Develop, via high-throughput methods, enzyme and/or microbial-based technologies that enable new commercially-viable coproducts from ethanol fermentations.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
The growth and sustainability of bioenergy production in the United States (U.S.) are hindered by a number of technical and commercial barriers. Biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals is technically feasible, but inefficiencies in the process make it economically impractical. Accomplishing the objectives will help overcome significant technical challenges to producing sustainable fuels and chemicals from agricultural feedstocks.

3. Progress Report
This report documents accomplishments for the research project 3620-41000-135-00D, entitled Improving Biochemical Processes for the Production of Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals. Portions of this work are a continuation of research performed under project 3620-41000-135-00D (Microbial Catalysts to Produce Fuel Ethanol and Value Added Products), which was terminated in FY2009. Research focuses on four objectives: 1. Develop novel deconstruction enzymes for hydrolyzing lignocellulose; 2. Develop Gram-positive bacteria for producing biofuels from lignocellulosic hydrolysates; 3. Develop methods for controlling bacterial contamination of fuel ethanol fermentations; 4. Develop technologies to enable new coproducts from biofuel production. In FY 2010, ARS scientists made significant progress toward these objectives. Enzymes that are capable of degrading lignocellulosic biomass were characterized from the fungus Acremonium zeae. Strains of lactic acid bacteria were transformed to functionally express an enzyme involved in butanol production. New methods were developed to characterize bacterial biofilms, which are contributing factors in chronic and acute infections of fuel ethanol fermentations. An antibacterial peptide that has potential to inhibit the bacterial strains that contaminated ethanol plants was purified and characterized. Substantial progress has been made toward developing programs for the robotic workcell to generate transformed strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Progress achieved during FY 2010 has potential scientific impact for researchers in industry, government and academia, and will facilitate development and improvement of efficient processes that lower the production costs of fuels and chemicals from renewable agricultural materials.

4. Accomplishments

Review Publications
Hughes, S.R., Rich, J.O., Bischoff, K.M., Hector, R.E., Qureshi, N., Saha, B.C., Dien, B.S., Liu, S., Jackson Jr, J.S., Sterner, D.E., Butt, T.R., Labaer, J., Cotta, M.A. 2009. Automated yeast transformation protocol to engineer S. cerevisiae strains for cellulosic ethanol production with open reading frames that express proteins binding to xylose isomerase identified using robotic two-hybrid screen. Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation. 8:200-212.

Gibbons, W.R., Hughes, S.R. 2009. Integrated biorefineries with engineered microbes and high-value co-products for profitable biofuels production. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plants. 45:218-228.

Liu, S., Qureshi, N. 2009. How microbes tolerate ethanol and butanol. New Biotechnology. 26(3/4):117-121.

Songstad, D.D., Lakshmanan, P., Chen, J., Gibbons, W., Hughes, S.R., Nelson, R. 2009. Historical perspective of biofuels: Learning from the past to rediscover the future. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plants. 45:189-192.

Rastogi, G., Muppidi, G.L., Gurram, R.N., Adhikari, A., Bischoff, K.M., Hughes, S.R., Apel, W.A., Bang, S.S., Dixon, D.J., Sani, R.K. 2009. Isolation and characterization of cellulose-degrading bacteria from the deep subsurface of the Homestake Gold Mine, Lead, South Dakota, USA. Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology. 36:585-598.

Bischoff, K.M., Liu, S., Hughes, S.R., Rich, J.O. 2010. Fermentation of corn fiber hydrolysate to lactic acid by the moderate thermophile Bacillus coagulans. Biotechnology Letters. 32:823-828.

Hughes, S.R., Hector, R.E., Rich, J.O., Qureshi, N., Bischoff, K.M., Dien, B.S., Saha, B.C., Liu, S., Jackson Jr, J.S., Sterner, D.E., Butt, T.R., Labaer, J., Cotta, M.A. 2009. Automated yeast mating protocol using open reading frames from Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome to improve yeast strains for cellulosic ethanol production. Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation. 8:190-199.

Hughes, S.R., Qureshi, N. 2010. Biofuel demand realization. In: Vertes, A., Qureshi, N., Blascheck, H.P., Yukawa, H., editors. Biomass to Biofuels: Strategies to Global Industries. UK:John Wiley & Sons Limited. p. 55-69.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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