Microbial division of labor produces higher biofuel yields

Yong-Su Jin
Yong-Su Jin. Photo: Fred Zwicky.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scientists have found a way to boost ethanol production via yeast fermentation, a standard method for converting plant sugars into biofuels. Their approach, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, relies on careful timing and a tight division of labor among synthetic yeast strains to yield more ethanol per unit of plant sugars than previous approaches have achieved. 

“We constructed an artificial microbial community consisting of two engineered yeast strains: a glucose specialist and a xylose specialist,” said Yong-Su Jin, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who co-led the new research with U. of I. bioengineering professor Ting Lu. “We investigated how the timing of mixing the two yeast populations and the ratios in which the two populations were mixed affected the production of cellulosic ethanol.”

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