Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Computers help develop biofuel microorganism

Fossil fuels and plastics are a major cause of environmental pollution and their production is dependent upon non-renewable oil reserves. In the quest for the renewable production of environmentally friendly chemicals, one solution is the use of genetically engineered microorganisms.
Computers help develop biofuel microorganism
Genes encoded in microorganisms can be modified, or new genes inserted from different organisms to develop microorganisms capable of efficiently producing bioplastics or biofuels. These biological processes (referred to as green chemistry) are renewable and less polluting compared to conventional production processes based on petrochemicals.

The number of possible combinations for integrating genes of different organisms into a microbial host is too complex to be explored using traditional techniques. Instead, computers are used to determine genetic engineering strategies for designing efficient strains of microorganisms and their use in experiments.

The EU-funded PSEUDOMODEL (Integrative modeling and engineering of Pseudomonas putida for green chemistry) project developed computational techniques to help predict genetic engineering strategies for the efficient production of biofuels and bioplastics.

Researchers assembled a dataset of the enzymatic repertoire of 23 microorganisms and developed a computational framework to predict the minimal number of interventions for controlling the activity of cellular pathways. The ensuing results enabled a number of promising targets for genetic engineering to be identified.

The microorganism Pseudomonas putida KT2440 is well understood by scientists and is used in the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), important precursors for bioplastics. Existing models of P. putida KT2440 were compared and tested and the PSEUDOMODEL computational framework used to predict genetic engineering strategies for the efficient production of Acetyl-Coenzyme A, an important precursor of PHA.

Three different scenarios were explored. They were the optimization of microbial growth, optimization of Acetyl-Coenzyme A yield, and the combined optimization of growth and Acetyl-Coenzyme A yield. Results indicated that alternative engineering strategies could increase growth by up to 147 %, and PHA production by up to 136 %. In addition, the second scenario suggested that Acetyl-Coenzyme A production is limited by the uptake rate of succinate.

The microorganism P. putida DOT-T1E, which is noted for its tolerance to toxic compounds, was also studied and further genetically engineered to further improve its tolerance. The resulting engineered strains represent promising host systems for the efficient production of n-Butanol, a promising next generation biofuel due to its high energy density, safe handling, and the possibility of direct use in gasoline motors.

PSEUDOMODEL will help to discover new engineered strains of microorganisms for the efficient production of biofuels and biodegradable compounds. Furthermore, it will help the EU to become a global leader in green chemistry, thereby reducing environmental pollution and promoting economic independence from oil production.

Related information


Green chemistry, genetic engineering, Pseudomonas putida KT2440, polyhydroxyalkanoates, Acetyl-Coenzyme A, succinate, P. putida DOT-T1E, n-Butanol
Record Number: 181055 / Last updated on: 2016-04-15
Domain: Environment