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One of the crucial factors for a sustainable and economical production of lignocellulosic based bioethanol is the availability of a robust fermenting microorganism with high tolerance to inhibitors generated during the pretreatment of lignocellulosic raw materials, since these inhibitors are known to severely hinder growth and fermentation.
A long-term adaptation in repetitive batch cultures in shake flasks using a cocktail of 12 different inhibitors and a long-term chemostat adaptation using spruce hydrolysate were used as evolutionary engineering strategies to improve the inhibitor tolerance in the metabolically engineered xylose utilizing Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, TMB3400. The yeast was evolved for a period of 429 and 97 generations in repetitive batch cultures and chemostat cultivation, respectively. During the evolutionary engineering in repetitive batch cultures the maximum specific growth rate increased from 0.18 h-1 to 0.33 h-1 and the time of lag phase was decreased from 48 h to 24 h. In the chemostat adaptation, after 97 generations, the specific conversion rates of HMF and furfural were found to be 3.5 and 4 folds higher respectively, compared to rates after three generations. Two evolved strains (RK60-5, RKU90-3) and one evolved strain (KE1-17) were isolated from evolutionary engineering in repetitive batches and chemostat cultivation, respectively. The strains displayed significantly improved growth performance over TMB3400 when cultivated in spruce hydrolysate under anaerobic conditions, the evolved strains exhibited 25 to 38% increase in specific consumption rate of sugars and 32 to 50% increased specific ethanol productivity compared to TMB3400. The evolved strains RK60-5 and RKU90-3 were unable to consume xylose under anaerobic conditions, whereas, KE1-17 was found to consume xylose at similar rates as TMB3400.
Using evolutionary engineering strategies in batch and chemostat cultivations we have generated three evolved strains that show significantly better tolerance to inhibitors in spruce hydrolysate and displayed a shorter time for overall fermentation of sugars compared to the parental strain.