Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 94, Issue 1, pp 205–214 | Cite as

Anaerobic xylose fermentation by Spathaspora passalidarum

Applied microbial and cell physiology


A cost-effective conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into bioethanol requires that the xylose released from the hemicellulose fraction (20–40% of biomass) can be fermented. Baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, efficiently ferments glucose but it lacks the ability to ferment xylose. Xylose-fermenting yeast such as Pichia stipitis requires accurately controlled microaerophilic conditions during the xylose fermentation, rendering the process technically difficult and expensive. In this study, it is demonstrated that under anaerobic conditions Spathaspora passalidarum showed high ethanol production yield, fast cell growth, and rapid sugar consumption with xylose being consumed after glucose depletion, while P. stipitis was almost unable to utilize xylose under these conditions. It is further demonstrated that for S. passalidarum, the xylose conversion takes place by means of NADH-preferred xylose reductase (XR) and NAD+-dependent xylitol dehydrogenase (XDH). Thus, the capacity of S. passalidarum to utilize xylose under anaerobic conditions is possibly due to the balance between the cofactor’s supply and demand through this XR–XDH pathway. Only few XRs with NADH preference have been reported so far. 2-Deoxy glucose completely inhibited the conversion of xylose by S. passalidarum under anaerobic conditions, but only partially did that under aerobic conditions. Thus, xylose uptake by S. passalidarum may be carried out by different xylose transport systems under anaerobic and aerobic conditions. The presence of glucose also repressed the enzymatic activity of XR and XDH from S. passalidarum as well as the activities of those enzymes from P. stipitis.


Xylose fermentation Cofactor balance Xylose reductase Xylitol dehydrogenase Glucose repression 



I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Ingelis Larsen and Annette Eva Jensen for their help on high-performance liquid chromatography analysis; to Anders Brandt for helpful discussions; and to Anders Brandt, Klaus Breddam, and Kim Pilegaard for comments and proofreading of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

253_2011_3694_MOESM1_ESM.ppt (288 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 Partial DNA sequence of S. passalidarum xylose reductase (XYL1.1; left to right 5′ to 3′ direction). This sequence showed highest similarity with Candida tenuis xylose reductase (83% identities; PPT 287 kb)
253_2011_3694_MOESM2_ESM.ppt (393 kb)
Supplementary Figure 2 Partial DNA sequence of S. passalidarum xylose reductase (XYL1.2) (left to right 5′ to 3′ direction). This sequence showed highest similarity with Candida tropicalis strain AY 92045 xylose reductase (78% identities; PPT 393 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biosystems Division, Risoe National Laboratory for Sustainable EnergyTechnical University of DenmarkRoskildeDenmark

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