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Open Access Research

Dynamic metabolic modeling of a microaerobic yeast co-culture: predicting and optimizing ethanol production from glucose/xylose mixtures

Timothy J Hanly and Michael A Henson*

Author Affiliations

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Goessmann Lab 159, 686 N. Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01003-3110, USA

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Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:44  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-6-44

Published: 1 April 2013

Abstract

Background

A key step in any process that converts lignocellulose to biofuels is the efficient fermentation of both hexose and pentose sugars. The co-culture of respiratory-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae and wild-type Scheffersomyces stipitis has been identified as a promising system for microaerobic ethanol production because S. cerevisiae only consumes glucose while S. stipitis efficiently converts xylose to ethanol.

Results

To better predict how these two yeasts behave in batch co-culture and to optimize system performance, a dynamic flux balance model describing co-culture metabolism was developed from genome-scale metabolic reconstructions of the individual organisms. First a dynamic model was developed for each organism by estimating substrate uptake kinetic parameters from batch pure culture data and evaluating model extensibility to different microaerobic growth conditions. The co-culture model was constructed by combining the two individual models assuming a cellular objective of total growth rate maximization. To obtain accurate predictions of batch co-culture data collected at different microaerobic conditions, the S. cerevisiae maximum glucose uptake rate was reduced from its pure culture value to account for more efficient S. stipitis glucose uptake in co-culture. The dynamic co-culture model was used to predict the inoculum concentration and aeration level that maximized batch ethanol productivity. The model predictions were validated with batch co-culture experiments performed at the optimal conditions. Furthermore, the dynamic model was used to predict how engineered improvements to the S. stipitis xylose transport system could improve co-culture ethanol production.

Conclusions

These results demonstrate the utility of the dynamic co-culture metabolic model for guiding process and metabolic engineering efforts aimed at increasing microaerobic ethanol production from glucose/xylose mixtures.

Keywords:
Co-culture; Cellulosic ethanol; Fermentation; Mathematical modeling; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Scheffersomyces stipitis