Source: Univerisity of Illinois

A newly engineered yeast strain can simultaneously consume two types of sugar from plants to produce ethanol, researchers report. The most important aspect is consumption of "wood sugar" for cellulosic ethanol production.

The sugars are glucose, a six-carbon sugar that is relatively easy to ferment; and xylose, a five-carbon sugar that has been much more difficult to utilize in ethanol production. The new strain, made by combining, optimizing and adding to earlier advances, reduces or eliminates several major inefficiencies associated with current biofuel production methods.

The findings, from a collaboration led by researchers at the University of Illinois, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California and the energy company BP, are described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Energy Biosciences Institute, a BP-funded initiative, supported the research.

"Xylose is a wood sugar, a five-carbon sugar that is very abundant in lignocellulosic biomass but not in our food. Most yeast cannot ferment xylose," explained Yong-Su Jin, a professor of food science and human nutrition at Illinois. He also is an affiliate of the U. of I. Institute for Genomic Biology and a principal investigator on the study.

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