JBEI researchers discover bisabolane-to-diesel pathway
Bisabolane is part of the terpene class of chemical compounds found in plants, and although traditionally used in fragrances and flavorings, a team of researchers at the U.S. DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute has discovered how to utilize bisabolane as an alternative to No. 2 diesel.
The research team, led in part by Taek Soon Lee, director of JBEI’s metabolic engineering program, genetically engineered two different microbes, E. coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, creating a new mevalonate pathway to overproduce a chemical compound called farnesyl diphosphate (FFP), which, when treated with enzymes can then be synthesized into terpene. Using the same microbes and the same pathway, the team created bisabolane as well, based on the mevalonate pathway that increased the biosynthesis ability in the microbes.
Lee said that through multiple rounds of large-scale preparation in shake flasks, the team was able to prepare roughly 20 milliliters of biosynthetic bisabolane using the over-producing microbes. But, Lee also said that his team wasn’t sure if the work to create bisabolane would translate into useful biofuels research. Using commercially available bisabolane, the team performed fuel property tests and found that the work was promising.
“Bisabolane has properties almost identical to D2 diesel but its branched and cyclic chemical structure gives it much lower freezing and cloud points,” Lee said. Using the mevalonate pathway, the same basic pathway used to produce the anti-malarial drugs artemisinin made famous by research at JBEI that led to the formation of Amyris, the team tweaked the pathway to improve the bisabolane yields.
Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 2011-10-05 12:47