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Mining diversity of the natural biorefinery housed within Tipula abdominalis larvae for use in an industrial biorefinery for production of lignocellulosic ethanol

Cook, Dana M., Doran-Peterson, Joy
Insect science 2010 v.17 no.3 pp. 303-312
Tipula, animals, antibiotics, biocatalysts, biochemical pathways, biofuels, biorefining, coculture, diet, digestion, economic feasibility, ecosystems, enzyme activity, ethanol, ethanol fuels, fermentation, fuel production, hindgut, insects, larvae, lignocellulose, microbial communities, mining, polymers, recalcitrant species, symbiosis, yeasts
Although they are the largest taxonomic group of animals, relatively few insects have been examined for symbiotic relationships with micro-organisms. However, this is rapidly changing because of the potential for examination of the natural insect-microbe-lignocellulose interactions to provide insights for biofuel technology. Micro-organisms associated with lignocellulose-consuming insects often facilitate the digestion of the recalcitrant plant diet; therefore these microbial communities may be mined for novel lignocellulose-degrading microbes, or for robust and inexpensive biocatalysts necessary for economically feasible biofuel production from lignocellulose. These insect-microbe interactions are influenced by the ecosystem and specific lignocellulose diet, and appreciating the whole ecosystem-insect-microbiota-lignocellulose as a natural biorefinery provides a rich and diverse framework from which to design novel industrial processes. One such natural biorefinery, the Tipula abdominalis larvae in riparian ecosystems, is reviewed herein with applications for biochemical processes and overcoming challenges involved in conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuel ethanol. From the dense and diverse T. abdominalis larval hindgut microbial community, a cellulolytic bacterial isolate, 27C64, demonstrated enzymatic activity toward many model plant polymers and also produced a bacterial antibiotic. 27C64 was co-cultured with yeast in fermentation of pine to ethanol, which allowed for a 20% reduction of commercial enzyme. In this study, a micro-organism from a lignocellulose-consuming insect was successfully applied for improvement of biomass-to-biofuel technology.