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Improvement of Brazilian bioethanol production – Challenges and perspectives on the identification and genetic modification of new strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts isolated during ethanol process

Paulino de Souza, Jonas, Dias do Prado, Cleiton, Eleutherio, Elis C.A., Bonatto, Diego, Malavazi, Iran, Ferreira da Cunha, Anderson
Fungal biology 2018 v.122 no.6 pp. 583-591
Saccharomyces cerevisiae, bioethanol, burning, crops, ethanol, ethanol production, fermentation, genetic engineering, heat tolerance, molasses, phenotype, sucrose, sugarcane juice, yeasts, Brazil
In Brazil, bioethanol is produced by sucrose fermentation from sugarcane by Saccharomyces cerevisiae in a fed-batch process that uses high density of yeast cells (15–25 % of wet weight/v) and high sugar concentration (18–22 % of total sugars). Several research efforts have been employed to improve the efficiency of this process through the isolation of yeasts better adapted to the Brazilian fermentation conditions. Two important wild strains named CAT-1 and PE-2 were isolated during the fermentation process and were responsible for almost 60 % of the total ethanol production in Brazil. However, in the last decade the fermentative substrate composition was much modified, since new sugar cane crops were developed, the use of molasses instead of sugar cane juice increase and with the prohibition of burning of sugarcane prior harvest. As consequence, these previously isolated strains are being replaced by new wild yeasts in most of ethanol plants. In this new scenario the isolation of novel better adapted yeasts with improved fermentative characteristics is still a big challenge. Here, we discuss the main aspects of Brazilian ethanol production and the efforts for the selection, characterization and genetic modifications of new strains with important phenotypic traits such as thermotolerance.