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Biological abatement of inhibitors in rice hull hydrolyzate and fermentation to ethanol using conventional and engineered microbes

Nancy N. Nichols, Ronald E. Hector, Badal C. Saha, Sarah E. Frazer, Gregory J. Kennedy
Biomass and bioenergy 2014 v.67 pp. 79-88
acetates, lignocellulose, furans, ethanol fermentation, glucose, xylose, arabinose, bioenergy, rice hulls, aldehydes, Escherichia coli, chemical concentration, xylan, ethanol production, growth retardation, biomass, lignin, ethanol, hydrolysates, acid treatment, aromatic compounds, genetically engineered microorganisms, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, pH, pentoses, Coniochaeta, fungi
Microbial inhibitors arise from lignin, hemicellulose, and degraded sugar during pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass. The fungus Coniochaeta ligniaria NRRL30616 has native ability to metabolize a number of these compounds, including furan and aromatic aldehydes known to act as inhibitors toward relevant fermenting microbes. In this study, C. ligniaria was used to metabolize and remove inhibitory compounds from pretreated rice hulls, which comprise a readily available agricultural residue rich in glucose (0.32–0.33 g glucan/g hulls) and xylose (0.15–0.19 g xylan/g hulls). Samples were dilute-acid pretreated and subjected to bioabatement of inhibitors by C. ligniaria. The bioabated rice hull hemicellulose hydrolyzates were then utilized for ethanol fermentations. In bioabated liquors, glucose was converted to 0.58% (w/v) ethanol by Saccharomyces cerevisiae D5a at 100% of theoretical yield, while fermentations of unabated hydrolyzates either failed to exit lag phase or had reduced ethanol yield (80% of theoretical). In fermentations using ethanologens engineered for conversion of pentoses, bioabatement of hydrolyzates similarly improved fermentations. Fermentation of xylose and arabinose by ethanologenic Escherichia coli FBR5 yielded 2.25% and 0.05% (w/v) ethanol from bioabated and unabated samples, respectively. Fermentations using S. cerevisiae YRH400 had decreased fermentation lag times in bioabated hydrolyzates. However, xylose metabolism in S. cerevisiae YRH400 was strongly affected by pH and acetate concentration.