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New synthetic biology technique boosts microbial production of diesel fuel
Date:3/26/2012

Significant boosts in the microbial production of clean, green and renewable biodiesel fuel has been achieved with the development of a new technique in synthetic biology by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI). This new technique dubbed a dynamic sensor-regulator system (DSRS) can detect metabolic changes in microbes during the production of fatty acid-based fuels or chemicals and control the expression of genes affecting that production. The result in one demonstration was a threefold increase in the microbial production of biodiesel from glucose.

"The DSRS is an amazing and powerful new tool, the first example of a synthetic system that can dynamically regulate a metabolic pathway for improving production of fatty acid-based fuels and chemicals while the microbes are in the bioreactor," says Jay Keasling, CEO of JBEI and one of the world's foremost practitioners of synthetic biology, who led this research.

Keasling, who also serves as the Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in Nature Biology. The paper is titled "Design of a dynamic sensor-regulator system for production of FAbased chemicals and fuels." Co-authors are Fuzhong Zhang and James Carothers of JBEI's Fuels Synthesis Division, which is directed by Keasling.

The need for new transportation fuels that are renewable and can be produced in a sustainable fashion has never been more urgent. Scientific studies have consistently shown that liquid fuels derived from plant biomass are one of the best alternatives if a cost-effective means of commercial production can be found. Major research efforts to this end are focused on fatty acids the energy-rich molecules in plant cells that have been dubbed nature's petroleum. Fatty acids now serve as the raw materials not only for biodiesel fuel,
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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