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Keywords:

  • dynamic flux balance modeling;
  • fermentation;
  • mixed culture;
  • Escherichia coli;
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Abstract

Sequential uptake of pentose and hexose sugars that compose lignocellulosic biomass limits the ability of pure microbial cultures to efficiently produce value-added bioproducts. In this work, we used dynamic flux balance modeling to examine the capability of mixed cultures of substrate-selective microbes to improve the utilization of glucose/xylose mixtures and to convert these mixed substrates into products. Co-culture simulations of Escherichia coli strains ALS1008 and ZSC113, engineered for glucose and xylose only uptake respectively, indicated that improvements in batch substrate consumption observed in previous experimental studies resulted primarily from an increase in ZSC113 xylose uptake relative to wild-type E. coli. The E. coli strain ZSC113 engineered for the elimination of glucose uptake was computationally co-cultured with wild-type Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which can only metabolize glucose, to determine if the co-culture was capable of enhanced ethanol production compared to pure cultures of wild-type E. coli and the S. cerevisiae strain RWB218 engineered for combined glucose and xylose uptake. Under the simplifying assumption that both microbes grow optimally under common environmental conditions, optimization of the strain inoculum and the aerobic to anaerobic switching time produced an almost twofold increase in ethanol productivity over the pure cultures. To examine the effect of reduced strain growth rates at non-optimal pH and temperature values, a break even analysis was performed to determine possible reductions in individual strain substrate uptake rates that resulted in the same predicted ethanol productivity as the best pure culture. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011;108: 376–385. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.