skip to main content

Title: Metabolomics of Clostridial Biofuel Production

Members of the genus Clostridium collectively have the ideal set of the metabolic capabilities for fermentative biofuel production: cellulose degradation, hydrogen production, and solvent excretion. No single organism, however, can effectively convert cellulose into biofuels. Here we developed, using metabolomics and isotope tracers, basic science knowledge of Clostridial metabolism of utility for future efforts to engineer such an organism. In glucose fermentation carried out by the biofuel producer Clostridium acetobutylicum, we observed a remarkably ordered series of metabolite concentration changes as the fermentation progressed from acidogenesis to solventogenesis. In general, high-energy compounds decreased while low-energy species increased during solventogenesis. These changes in metabolite concentrations were accompanied by large changes in intracellular metabolic fluxes, with pyruvate directed towards acetyl-CoA and solvents instead of oxaloacetate and amino acids. Thus, the solventogenic transition involves global remodeling of metabolism to redirect resources from biomass production into solvent production. In contrast to C. acetobutylicum, which is an avid fermenter, C. cellulolyticum metabolizes glucose only slowly. We find that glycolytic intermediate concentrations are radically different from fast fermenting organisms. Associated thermodynamic and isotope tracer analysis revealed that the full glycolytic pathway in C. cellulolyticum is reversible. This arises from changes in cofactor utilization for phosphofructokinase andmore » an alternative pathway from phosphoenolpyruvate to pyruvate. The net effect is to increase the high-energy phosphate bond yield of glycolysis by 150% (from 2 to 5) at the expense of lower net flux. Thus, C. cellulolyticum prioritizes glycolytic energy efficiency over speed. Degradation of cellulose results in other sugars in addition to glucose. Simultaneous feeding of stable isotope-labeled glucose and unlabeled pentose sugars (xylose or arabinose) to C. acetobutylicum revealed that, as expected, glucose was preferred, with the pentose sugar selectively assimilated into the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP). Simultaneous feeding of xylose and arabinose revealed an unexpected hierarchy among these pentose sugars, with arabinose utilized preferentially over xylose. Pentose catabolism occurred via the phosphoketolase pathway (PKP), an alternative route of pentose catabolism that directly converts xylulose-5-phosphate into acetyl-phosphate and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. Taken collectively, these findings reveal two hierarchies in Clostridial pentose metabolism: xylose is subordinate to arabinose, and the PPP is used less than the PKP. Thus, in addition to massively expanding the available data on Clostridial metabolism, we identified three key regulatory points suitable for targeting in future bioengineering efforts: phosphofructokinase for enhancing fermentation, the pyruvate-oxaloacetate node for controlling solventogenesis, and the phosphoketolase reaction for driving pentose catabolism.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Princeton Univ., NJ (United States)
  2. Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY (United States)
  3. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Trustees of Princeton University, Princeton, NJ (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 08 HYDROGEN; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; Clostridia; Clostridium; metabolomics; flux; mass spectrometry; LC-MS