Furfural is an important fermentation inhibitor in hemicellulose sugar syrups derived from woody biomass. The metabolism of furfural by NADPH-dependent oxidoreductases, such as YqhD (low K m for NADPH), is proposed to inhibit the growth and fermentation of xylose in Escherichia coli by competing with biosynthesis for NADPH. The discovery that the NADH-dependent propanediol oxidoreductase (FucO) can reduce furfural provided a new approach to improve furfural tolerance. Strains that produced ethanol or lactate efficiently as primary products from xylose were developed. These strains included chromosomal mutations in yqhD expression that permitted the fermentation of xylose broths containing up to 10 mM furfural. Expression of fucO from plasmids was shown to increase furfural tolerance by 50% and to permit the fermentation of 15 mM furfural. Product yields with 15 mM furfural were equivalent to those of control strains without added furfural (85% to 90% of the theoretical maximum). These two defined genetic traits can be readily transferred to enteric biocatalysts designed to produce other products. A similar strategy that minimizes the depletion of NADPH pools by native detoxification enzymes may be generally useful for other inhibitory compounds in lignocellulosic sugar streams and with other organisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology