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UF Identify New Bacterium to Enhance Cellulosic Ethanol Production

A team of researchers at the University of Florida has found that the aggressively wood-decaying bacterium Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2, isolated from decaying sweet gum tree wood, is able to utilize methylglucuronoxylose (MeGAX1), a product that accumulates during acid pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass.

The ability to utilize MeGAX1 provides a novel metabolic potential for bioconversion of acid hydrolysates of lignocellulosics,” they note in a paper published in the July issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The 2.8-fold-greater rate of utilization of polymeric MeGAXn than that of MeGAX3 indicates that there is coupling of extracellular depolymerization, assimilation, and intracellular metabolism, allowing utilization of lignocellulosics with minimal pretreatment.

—Nong et al.

The UF team has now mapped JDR-2’s genome, and Preston expects that, within the year, they will transfer genes behind JDR-2’s abilities to bacteria used to produce ethanol. This would be followed by the design of processes for the cost-effective production of ethanol from wood, agricultural residues and other potential energy crops.

The acids, the heating—all of these steps you have to take beforehand are expensive, require a lot of work and, let’s face it, no one wants to work with sulfuric acid on that scale if you don’t have to. By engineering the bacteria already being used to produce ethanol to also process hemicelluloses the way this Paenibacillus does, you should be able to significantly simplify the process.

—James Preston, the team leader and a professor in UF’s microbiology and cell science department


  • Guang Nong, John D. Rice, Virginia Chow, and James F. Preston (2009) Aldouronate Utilization in Paenibacillus sp. Strain JDR-2: Physiological and Enzymatic Evidence for Coupling of Extracellular Depolymerization and Intracellular Metabolism. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 75, No. 13 p. 4410-4418, doi: 10.1128/AEM.02354-08


Henry Gibson

Somebody, in Texas perhaps, just made big piles of organic materials that organisms converted into carbolixic acids that could be converted into fuels. Low temperature wet-air-oxidation also produces carbolixic acids. All cities should have requirements and facilities to process sewage that contains all forms of plant derived materials including green wastes and paper that is made with special garbage disposals. No organic materials should be put into landfills. ..HG..


Preprocessing cellulose is a good idea as a front end to fermentation plants, but once you get down to getting all the sugar out you can gasify to make more out of the rest. Range, Syntec and others have shown that it can be done. The yield approaching 200 gallons of alcohol per ton may be at hand.

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