Microbial community members play distinct roles in biosynthesis

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In Wisconsin, researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center previously described a small-scale bioreactor that used a mixed microbial community to produce valuable molecules from the conversion residue remaining after lignocellulosic ethanol production. The team has now analyzed the composition and metabolic characteristics of the microbiome as a step toward understanding how to engineer and control microbial communities to optimize production of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which can be used to make a variety of industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Developing methods to convert a larger percentage of the carbon contained in biofuel crops into useful products is crucial to improve the economics of biorefining and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The ability to engineer microbial communities with defined metabolic networks would allow greater control over the synthesis of specific bioproducts, such as MCFAs, for maximum carbon conversion and improved efficiency.