Commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production has been hindered by high costs associated with cellulose-to-glucose conversion and hexose and pentose co-fermentation. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) with a yeast strain capable of xylose and cellobiose co-utilization has been proposed as a possible avenue to reduce these costs. The recently developed DA24-16 strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae incorporates a xylose assimilation pathway and a cellodextrin transporter (CDT) that permit rapid growth on xylose and cellobiose. In the current work, a mechanistic kinetic model of cellulase-catalyzed hydrolysis of cellulose was combined with a multi-substrate model of microbial growth to investigate the ability of DA24-16 and improved cellobiose-consuming strains to obviate the need for exogenously added β-glucosidase and to assess the impact of cellobiose utilization on SSF and separate hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF). Results indicate that improved CDT-containing strains capable of growing on cellobiose as rapidly as on glucose produced ethanol nearly as rapidly as non-CDT-containing yeast supplemented with β-glucosidase. In producing 75 g/L ethanol, SSF with any strain did not result in shorter residence times than SHF with a 12 h saccharification step. Strains with improved cellobiose utilization are therefore unlikely to allow higher titers to be reached more quickly in SSF than in SHF.
See accompanying Commentary by Jin and Cate DOI: 10.1002/biot.201100489