Bioconversion of lignin model compounds with oleaginous Rhodococci
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Although economically efficient biomass conversion depends on the utilization of the complete cell wall (biorefinery concept), including polysaccharides and lignin, current biofuels research concentrate mostly on cellulose conversion, while lignin is viewed as a side-product that is used primarily as a thermal resource. Microbiological conversion of lignin is almost exclusive to fungi, usually resulting in increased cell mass and lignolytic enzymes. Some bacteria can also degrade lignin-related compounds using the β-ketoadipate pathway; for example, Rhodococcus opacus DSM 1069 can degrade coniferyl alcohol and grow on it as sole carbon source. Moreover, this strain belongs to the actinomycetes group that is also known for oleaginous species with lipid accumulation over 20%. Present work shows that R. opacus DSM 1069 and PD630 strains under nitrogen limiting conditions can convert lignin model compounds into triacylglycerols, also known as neutral lipids. 4-Hydroxybenzoic and vanillic acid lignin model compounds were used as sole carbon sources, and after brief adaptation periods, the cells not only began growing but accumulated lipids to the level of oleaginicity. These lipids were extracted for transesterification and analysis of fatty acid methyl esters showed good composition for biodiesel applications with no aromatics. Furthermore, the two strains showed distinct substrate metabolism and product profiles.
KeywordsLignin Lipid Triacylglycerol Oleaginous Rhodococcus β-ketoadipate
The authors are grateful to the “Southern Pine Based Biorefinery Centre” (DOE award number DE-EE0003144) for financial support. M. K. is also thankful for the PSE (Paper Science and Engineering) program at Georgia Tech.
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