Insights into Acetate Toxicity in Zymomonas mobilis 8b using Different Substrates

Shihui Yang, Mary Franden, Yat Chou, Philip Pienkos, Min Zhang, Steven Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus Citations


Background: Lignocellulosic biomass is a promising renewable feedstock for biofuel production. Acetate is one of the major inhibitors liberated from hemicelluloses during hydrolysis. An understanding of the toxic effects of acetate on the fermentation microorganism and the efficient utilization of mixed sugars of glucose and xylose in the presence of hydrolysate inhibitors is crucial for economic biofuel production.

Results: A new microarray was designed including both coding sequences and intergenic regions to investigate the acetate stress responses of Zymomonas mobilis 8b when using single carbon sources of glucose or xylose, or mixed sugars of both glucose and xylose. With the supplementation of exogenous acetate, 8b can utilize all the glucose with a similar ethanol yield, although the growth, final biomass, and ethanol production rate were reduced. However, xylose utilization was inhibited in both media containing xylose or a mixed sugar of glucose and xylose, although the performance of 8b was better in mixed sugar than xylose-only media. The presence of acetate caused genes related to biosynthesis, the flagellar system, and glycolysis to be downregulated, and genes related to stress responses and energy metabolism to be upregulated. Unexpectedly, xylose seems to pose more stress on 8b, recruiting more genes for xylose utilization, than does acetate. Several gene candidates based on transcriptome results were selected for genetic manipulation, and a TonB-dependent receptor knockout mutant was confirmed to have a slight advantage regarding acetate tolerance.

Conclusions: Our results indicate Z. mobilis utilized a different mechanism for xylose utilization, with an even more severe impact on Z. mobilis than that caused by acetate treatment. Our study also suggests redox imbalance caused by stressful conditions may trigger a metabolic reaction leading to the accumulation of toxic intermediates such as xylitol, but Z. mobilis manages its carbon and energy metabolism through the control of individual reactions to mitigate the stressful conditions. We have thus provided extensive transcriptomic datasets and gained insights into the molecular responses of Z. mobilis to the inhibitor acetate when grown in different sugar sources, which will facilitate future metabolic modeling studies and strain improvement efforts for better xylose utilization and acetate tolerance.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number140
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number9
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Yang et al.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-61892


  • acetate
  • microarray
  • pretreatment
  • toxicity
  • transcriptomics
  • xylose
  • Zymomonas mobilis


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