UCLA researchers engineer E. coli to produce record-setting amounts of alternative fuel
Researchers at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a way to produce normal butanol — often proposed as a "greener" fuel alternative to diesel and gasoline — from bacteria at rates significantly higher than those achieved using current production methods. The findings, reported online in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, mark an important advance in the production of normal butanol, or n-butanol, a four-carbon chain alcohol that has been shown to work well with existing energy infrastructure, including in vehicles designed for gasoline, without modifications that would be required with other biofuels.
The UCLA team, led by James C. Liao, UCLA's Chancellor's Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, demonstrated success in producing 15 to 30 grams of n-butanol per liter of culture medium using genetically engineered Escherichia coli — a record-setting increase over the typical one to four grams produced per liter in the past.
For the study, Liao and his team initially constructed an n-butanol biochemical pathway in E. coli, a microbe that doesn't naturally produce n-butanol, but found that production levels were limited. However, after adding metabolic driving forces to the pathway, the researchers witnessed a tenfold increase in the production of n-butanol. The metabolic driving forces pushed the carbon flux to n-butanol.
"Like human beings, microbes need an incentive to work," said Liao, the study's senior author.
"We created driving forces by genetically engineering the metabolism," said Claire R. Shen, a UCLA Engineering graduate student and lead author of the study.
While certain microbes, including species of the bacteria Clostridium, naturally produce n-butanol, Liao's team used E. coli because it is easier to manipulate and has been used industrially in producing various chemicals.
"By using E. coli, we can make it produce only the compound with no other byproducts," Liao said. "With native producing organisms like Clostridium, which naturally produces n-butanol, there are other byproducts that would add cost to the separation process."
The next step in the research, the researchers say, will be to transfer the study to industry for the development of a more robust industrial process.
- UCLA researchers engineer E. coli to produce record-setting amounts of alternative fuelfrom Science CentricThu, 17 Mar 2011, 15:50:30 EDT
- E. coli engineered to produce record-setting amounts of alternative fuelfrom Science DailyThu, 17 Mar 2011, 14:40:31 EDT
- UCLA researchers engineer E. coli to produce record-setting amounts of alternative fuelfrom Science BlogThu, 17 Mar 2011, 12:31:58 EDT
- Researchers engineer E. coli to produce record-setting amounts of alternative fuelfrom PhysorgThu, 17 Mar 2011, 8:12:13 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Risk of suicide increased 3-fold in adults after a concussion
- Horses can read human emotions, University of Sussex research shows
- Study accurately dates coral loss at Great Barrier Reef
- Americans recognize 'past presidents' who never were, study finds
- Rare bumble bee may be making a comeback in Pacific northwest
- Secondhand smoke: Nations producing less greenhouse gas most vulnerable to climate change
- Gene family turns cancer cells into aggressive stem cells that keep growing
- Turning the volume of gene expression up and down
- Ocean acidification makes coralline algae less robust
- Long-term picture offers little solace on climate change
- TV a top source of political news for caucus-goers
- Climate change prompts makeover of New England's forests, Dartmouth study finds
- NASA sees Tropical Cyclone Stan threaten Australia's Pilbara Coast
- NASA sees the end of Tropical Cyclone Stan over Western Australia
- Bacteria critical to early immune development partly restored in infants born by C-section