Adaptive Laboratory Evolution for Enhanced Performance of Cupriavidus necator on Formic Acid

Research output: NRELPoster


The need to decarbonize our economy is becoming ever more pressing. CO2, can be electrochemically reduced to formic acid, a soluble C1 molecule that can be used to store carbon and energy. Cupriavidus necator H16, a soil bacterium, capable of consuming and growing on formic acid as its sole carbon source, is well positioned to upgrade CO2-derived formic acid into value added chemicals such as sustainable aviation fuel. To improve the performance of C. necator on formic acid adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE), a proven tool for improving microbial fitness, has been conducted using continuous pH-stat bioreactors. The system works on the basis that consumption of formic acid raises the pH and triggers the addition of more formic acid to maintain the pH at 6.7, such that formic acid is provided at the same rate as it is consumed. This system has been coupled with level control to achieve continuous fermentation where cells acquiring mutations that improve growth on formic acid become more abundant in the population, from which they can be isolate and characterized. This configuration where the dilution rate is controlled by pH-stat has been found to seek out a dilution rate that matches the exponential growth rate of the organism. During developmental experiments it was discovered that formic acid accumulated to inhibitory levels. It was determined that the nitrogen source, ammonium hydroxide, must be tailored to the carbon consumption to avoid formic acid accumulation. ALE has run in three lineages for 2000+ hours and 300+ generations. Growth of evolved isolates derived from all lineages will be evaluated on formic acid and those with improved growth rates or biomass yield will be subjected to whole genome sequencing to identify potentially causative mutations. These mutations will be evaluated individually and in combination to identify those that improve growth on formic acid.
Original languageAmerican English
PublisherNational Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the Recent Advances In Fermentation Technology (RAFT) Conference, 29 October - 1 November 2023, Naples, Florida

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-2800-87848


  • adaptive laboratory evolution
  • Cupriavidus necator
  • formic acid
  • pH-stat
  • ralstonia eutropha


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