University of Illinois researchers makes discoveries into clostridial metabolism

In Illinois, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have, for the first time, uncovered the complex interdependence and orchestration of metabolic reactions, gene regulation, and environmental cues of clostridial metabolism, providing new insights for advanced biofuel development.

It typically involves complex biochemical processes implemented through the orchestration of metabolic reactions and gene regulation, as well as their interactions with environmental cues. One canonical example is the ABE fermentation by Clostridium acetobutylicum, during which cells convert carbon sources to organic acids that are later re-assimilated to produce solvents as a strategy for cellular survival.

“Clostridium is very much like a factory during fermentation which converts carbon sources into renewable, advanced biofuels that can be directly used to fuel your cars,” said Ting Lu, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Illinois, who is also affiliated with the Department of Physics and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. “The complexity and systems nature of the process have been largely underappreciated, rendering challenges in understanding and optimizing solvent (ABE) production.”

“In this study, we developed an integrated computational framework for the analysis and exploitation of the solvent metabolism by C. acetobutylicum,” said Chen Liao, a bioengineering graduate student and first author of the paper, “Integrated, Systems Metabolic Picture of Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol Fermentation by Clostridium acetobutylicum,” appearing in this week’s Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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