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Innately robust yeast strains isolated from grape marc have a great potential for lignocellulosic ethanol production

Favaro, Lorenzo, Basaglia, Marina, Casella, Sergio
Annals of microbiology 2014 v.64 no.4 pp. 1807-1818
Saccharomyces cerevisiae, acids, bioethanol, carbon, ethanol, ethanol production, fermentation, fossil fuels, genetic engineering, grape pomace, industrial applications, lignocellulose, nutrients, osmolality, solar radiation, sugars, temperature, yeasts
Bioethanol from lignocellulose is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the most important ethanol producer. However, yeast cells are challenged by various environmental stresses during ethanol production on an industrial scale, and robust strains with a high tolerance to inhibitors, temperature and osmolality are needed for the effective feasibility of lignocellulosic ethanol. To search for such innately more resistant yeast, we selected grape marc as an extreme environment due to limited nutrients, exposure to solar radiation, temperature fluctuations, weak acids and ethanol. Using a temperature of 40 °C as the key selection criterion, we isolated 120 novel S. cerevisiae strains from grape marc and found high ethanol yields (up to 92 % of the theoretical maximum) when inoculated at 40 °C in minimal media with a high sugar concentration. For the first time, this work assessed yeast tolerance to inhibitors at 40 °C, and the newly isolated yeast strains displayed interesting abilities to withstand increasing levels of single inhibitors or cocktails containing a mixture of inhibitory compounds. The newly isolated strains showed significantly higher fermentative abilities and tolerance to inhibitors than the industrial and commercial benchmark S. cerevisiae strains. The strong physiological robustness and fitness of a few of these S. cerevisiae yeast strains support their potential industrial application and encourage further studies in genetic engineering to enhance their ethanol performance in terms of rate and yield through the co-fermentation of all available carbon sources.