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Keywords:

  • plant sugars;
  • ethanol;
  • lactic acid;
  • Escherichia coli;
  • hemicellulose;
  • pectin

Summary

Concerns for our environment and unease with our dependence on foreign oil have renewed interest in converting plant biomass into fuels and ‘green’ chemicals. The volume of plant matter available makes lignocellulose conversion desirable, although no single isolated organism has been shown to depolymerize lignocellulose and efficiently metabolize the resulting sugars into a specific product. This work reviews selected chemicals and fuels that can be produced from microbial fermentation of plant-derived cell-wall sugars and directed engineering for improvement of microbial biocatalysts. Lactic acid and ethanol production are highlighted, with a focus on engineered Escherichia coli.