(ORDO NEWS) — Fatty acids are a promising raw material for the production of new types of biofuels and other useful substances, but until recently their production was too dependent on agriculture.
Now the situation may change: a group of Chinese scientists have obtained a yeast that is capable of producing free fatty acids from methyl alcohol.
Fatty acids and their derivatives are often considered as raw materials for the production of new fuels, detergents, lubricants, surfactants, and so on.
Today, however, the main source of these acids is agricultural products, which require extensive arable land and a significant amount of fresh water.
Methyl alcohol , or methanol, is a readily available raw material, mass-produced by dry distillation of wood or natural gas processing, so it is often seen as a hypothetical “biofuel of the future”.
Now, thanks to the work of Chinese scientists, another way to use methanol has been found: specially bred yeast has been able to process alcohol into free fatty acids.
The scientists worked with the methylotrophic yeast species Ogataea polymorpha , one of the few organisms that can grow on poisonous methanol and even benefit from it.
Previously, O. polymorpha has been used in biotechnology to produce proteins such as insulin , but now they will be able to produce fatty acids on an industrial scale.
A new variety of yeast was bred through controlled laboratory evolution and artificial modification of the yeast genome, which made it possible to prevent the death of the modified cells due to the overaccumulation of fatty acids.
Although O. polymorpha generally does not grow well on methanol, the conversion of the alcohol to fatty acids reduced the toxicity of the alcohol and gave the modified yeast an advantage over the unmodified yeast.
Already, a new variety of yeast shows an enviable performance – up to 15.9 grams of fatty acids per liter of methanol. In the near future, scientists plan to test this technology on an industrial scale, which in the future can lead to the production of cheap biofuels.
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