Conversion and Assimilation of Furfural and 5-(Hydroxymethyl)Furfural by Pseudomonas putida KT2440

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The sugar dehydration products, furfural and 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural (HMF), are commonly formed during high-temperature processing of lignocellulose, most often in thermochemical pretreatment, liquefaction, or pyrolysis. Typically, these two aldehydes are considered major inhibitors in microbial conversion processes. Many microbes can convert these compounds to their less toxic, dead-end alcohol counterparts, furfuryl alcohol and 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfuryl alcohol. Recently, the genes responsible for aerobic catabolism of furfural and HMF were discovered in Cupriavidus basilensis HMF14 to enable complete conversion of these compounds to the TCA cycle intermediate, 2-oxo-glutarate. In this work, we engineer the robust soil microbe, Pseudomonas putida KT2440, to utilize furfural and HMF as sole carbon and energy sources via complete genomic integration of the 12 kB hmf gene cluster previously reported from Burkholderia phytofirmans. The common intermediate, 2-furoic acid, is shown to be a bottleneck for both furfural and HMF metabolism. When cultured on biomass hydrolysate containing representative amounts of furfural and HMF from dilute-acid pretreatment, the engineered strain outperforms the wild type microbe in terms of reduced lag time and enhanced growth rates due to catabolism of furfural and HMF. Overall, this study demonstrates that an approach for biological conversion of furfural and HMF, relative to the typical production of dead-end alcohols, enables both enhanced carbon conversion and substantially improves tolerance to hydrolysate inhibitors. This approach should find general utility both in emerging aerobic processes for the production of fuels and chemicals from biomass-derived sugars and in the biological conversion of high-temperature biomass streams from liquefaction or pyrolysis where furfural and HMF are much more abundant than in biomass hydrolysates from pretreatment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-68119


  • 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural
  • furfural
  • HMF
  • Pseudomonas putida KT2440
  • pyrolysis


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