Understanding Microbial Tolerance to Next Generation Biofuels

The Science

Short chain alcohols such as n-butanol are promising candidates as next generation biofuels because of their high energy density and compatibility with existing fuel supply infrastructure. Although several types of microbes can synthesize these compounds from biomass-derived sugars, their toxicity to the microbes limits the total quantities that can be produced. Scientists at the DOE Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) have reported how exposure to n-butanol causes global changes in gene and protein expression in the model bacterium E. coli. Their studies provide clues on how the microbe regulates its response to this form of stress. These results identify new targets for reengineering microbes to improve their tolerance to n-butanol and other next generation biofuels.

BER Program Manager

Dawn Adin

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Rutherford, B. J., R. H. Dahl, R. E. Price, H. L. Szmidt, P. I. Benke, A. Muchopadhyay, and J. D. Keasling. 2010. “Functional Genomic Study of Exogenous n-Butanol Stress in Escherichia coli,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 76, 1935–45. DOI:10.1128/AEM.02323-09.