Ethanol Production by Thermophilic Bacteria: Fermentation of Cellulosic Substrates by Cocultures of Clostridium thermocellum and Clostridium thermohydrosulfuricum

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1981 Jun;41(6):1337-43. doi: 10.1128/aem.41.6.1337-1343.1981.


The fermentation of various saccharides derived from cellulosic biomass to ethanol was examined in mono- and cocultures of Clostridium thermocellum strain LQRI and C. thermohydrosulfuricum strain 39E. C. thermohydrosulfuricum fermented glucose, cellobiose, and xylose, but not cellulose or xylan, and yielded ethanol/acetate ratios of >7.0. C. thermocellum fermented a variety of cellulosic substrates, glucose, and cellobiose, but not xylan or xylose, and yielded ethanol/acetate ratios of approximately 1.0. At nonlimiting cellulosic substrate concentrations ( approximately 1%), C. thermocellum cellulase hydrolysis products accumulated during monoculture fermentation of Solka Floc cellulose and included glucose, cellobiose, xylose, and xylobiose. A stable coculture that contained nearly equal numbers of C. thermocellum and C. thermohydrosulfuricum was established that fermented a variety of cellulosic substrates, and the ethanol yield observed was twofold higher than in C. thermocellum monoculture fermentations. The metabolic basis for the enhanced fermentation effectiveness of the coculture on Solka Floc cellulose included: the ability of C. thermocellum cellulase to hydrolyze alpha-cellulose and hemicellulose; the enhanced utilization of mono- and disaccharides by C. thermohydrosulfuricum; increased cellulose consumption; threefold increase in the ethanol production rate; and twofold decrease in the acetate production rate. The coculture actively fermented MN300 cellulose, Avicel, Solka Floc, SO(2)-treated wood, and steam-exploded wood. The highest ethanol yield obtained was 1.8 mol of ethanol per mol of anhydroglucose unit in MN300 cellulose.