Actinotalea fermentans is a bacterium isolated from a landfill and grows best in moderate temperature, where it ferments cellulose to acetate and ethanol aerobically. This organism was previously considered as a potential way to convert cellulose to ethanol for use as a fuel, but the fermentation reaction always led to reduced yields, reducing the bacterium’s usefulness.
Recently, scientists have engineered synthetic co-cultures of A. fermentans with yeast to produce useful chemicals and fuels directly from cellulose or agricultural feedstocks such as corn stover, switchgrass, poplar and sugarcane bagasse. This technique will allow A. fermentans to be used to convert cellulose to ethanol while allowing researchers to avoid the same problems encountered before.
Sequencing the bacterium will provide the biofuels research community with a valuable resource for understanding and engineering a cellulose-fermenting organism. Additionally, the A. fermentans genome will be of interest to those studying microbial energy utilization and physiology.
Principal Investigators: Travis Bayer, University of California, San Francisco
Program: CSP 2010