Scientific Reports 9 (Feb 11 2019)
Clostridium thermocellum is a good candidate organism for producing cellulosic biofuels due to its native ability to ferment cellulose, however its maximum biofuel titer is limited by tolerance. Wild type C. thermocellum is inhibited by 5 g/L n-butanol. Using growth adaptation in a chemostat, we increased n-butanol tolerance to 15 g/L. We discovered that several tolerant strains had acquired a D494G mutation in the adhE gene. Re-introducing this mutation recapitulated the n-butanol tolerance phenotype. In addition, it increased tolerance to several other primary alcohols including isobutanol and ethanol. To confirm that adhE is the cause of inhibition by primary alcohols, we showed that deleting adhE also increases tolerance to several primary alcohols.