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Soybeans a source of valuable chemical
Date:12/19/2012

s used in small amounts in certain animal feeds, but overall it's a very low-value material."

The Rice researchers are changing that with the help of E. coli bacteria engineered to process soy meal that generally gets discarded. Certain microbes naturally produce succinic acid from such feedstock, but manipulating E. coli's metabolic pathways (by eliminating pathways that produce other chemicals like ethanol, for instance) can make it far more efficient.

Expanding on their success in producing succinic acid from glucose, the new microbes are engineered to metabolize a variety of sugars found in soybean meal. The theoretical ideal is a 1:1 ratio of feedstock (the extracted sugars) to product, which they feel is achievable by industry. In the lab, under less controlled conditions, they still found the process highly efficient. "We're demonstrating a very high yield," Thakker said. "We're achieving in a flask a non-optimized formation of succinate that is close to the theoretical goal."

Bennett said his lab has been looking at soybeans for nearly three years. "We're always interested in low-cost feedstock," he said. "We were able to get a connection with a soybean group that is very interested in technologies to make better and more profitable use of their crop.

"There's a fair amount of oilseed residuals available including cottonseed carbohydrates, that's not used for any high-value product, and we're in the space of microbial engineering to enable these sorts of materials to be used in a good way," he said.


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Contact: David Ruth
david@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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