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Establishing a project to engineering Zymomonas mobilis for enhanced biofuel production and tolerance


As a consequence of the surge in demand for biofuels, ethanol-producing microorganisms, such as the bacterium Z. mobilis, are of considerable interest. Importantly, Z. mobilis has an ethanol production rate and yield significantly higher than that of yeast, and tolerates high levels of ethanol, a virtually unique property among bacteria. We found that Z. mobilis is responsive to the quorum-sensing molecule AI-2, which caused a 50% increase in ethanol production. Considering the potential exploitation of our discovery, we have been granted patents for this technology in Europe (EP2092070), the US (12/446,139) and is pending in Brazil (BRPI0717476). Interestingly, Z. mobilis does not possess the genes generally associated with sensing AI-2 in other organisms; and, consequently, most likely utilizes a novel quorum-sensing system that awaits elucidation. Our objective is to elucidate the AI-2 signalling pathway in Z. mobilis through a combined mutagenesis, functional, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic approach, because this will provide information of fundamental importance in optimizing strains for ethanol production and tolerance. (AU)

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