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Bolstering the Cell Membrane of Engineered Yeast for Efficient Biofuel Production

Conary Meyer, Matt Kubit
Faculty Mentor: Teresa Ruscetti

With the need for alternatives to fossil fuels becoming more prevalent, biofuels has become an increasingly attractive alternative. Traditional biofuel production was quickly halted as a result of its ethical complications, leading to the development of second generation biofuels. This system utilizes plant waste instead of food as its starting material, allowing for rapid recycling of this widely available and cheap carbon source. This switch was, however, coupled with complications. Of those, the most prominent is the inevitable release of acetic acid resulting from the breakdown of the lignocellulosic waste. This acetic acid is challenging to neutralize or extract in a scalable manner, leaving it in high concentrations in the substrate fed to the yeast, greatly decreasing their efficiency. To combat that problem, we are implementing an acid resistance system endogenous to E. coli inside of the yeast to impart a similar resistance. The system functions on a cyclopropanation mechanism that decreases the permeability of the membrane to slow the diffusion of the acid into the cell. With this system, in conjunction with other complementary modifications, we look to increase the efficiency of second generation biofuel production bringing it another step closer to playing a prominent role in our energy economy.

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