Propionic acid fermentation from glycerol: comparison with conventional substrates
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Instead of the conventional carbon sources used for propionic acid biosynthesis, the utilization of glycerol is considered here, since the metabolic pathway involved in the conversion of glycerol to propionic acid is redox-neutral and energetic. Three strains, Propionibacterium acidipropionici, Propionibacterium acnes and Clostridium propionicum were tested for their ability to convert glycerol to propionic acid during batch fermentation with initially 20 g/l glycerol. P. acidipropionici showed higher efficiency in terms of fermentation time and conversion yield than did the other strains. The fermentation profile of this bacterium consisted in propionic acid as the major product (0.844 mol/mol), and in minimal by-products: succinic (0.055 mol/mol), acetic (0.023 mol/mol) and formic (0.020 mol/mol) acids and n-propanol (0.036 mol/mol). The overall propionic acid productivity was 0.18 g l−1h−1. A comparative study with glucose and lactic acid as carbon sources showed both less diversity in end-product composition and a 17% and 13% lower propionic acid conversion yield respectively than with glycerol. Increasing the initial glycerol concentration resulted in an enhanced productivity up to 0.36 g l−1h−1 and in a maximal propionic acid concentration of 42 g/l, while a slight decrease of the conversion yield was noticed. Such a propionic acid production rate was similar or higher than the values obtained with lactic acid (0.35 g l−1h−1) or glucose (0.28 g l−1h−1). These results demonstrated that glycerol is a carbon source of interest for propionic acid production.
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