Dramatic increases in research in the area of microbial biofuel production coupled with high-throughput data generation on bioenergy-related microbes has led to a deluge of information in the scientific literature and in databases. Consolidating this information and making it easily accessible requires a unified vocabulary. The Gene Ontology (GO) fulfills that requirement, as it is a well-developed structured vocabulary that describes the activities and locations of gene products in a consistent manner across all kingdoms of life. The Microbial ENergy processes Gene Ontology () project is extending the GO to include new terms to describe microbial processes of interest to bioenergy production. Our effort has added over 600 bioenergy related terms to the Gene Ontology. These terms will aid in the comprehensive annotation of gene products from diverse energy-related microbial genomes. An area of microbial energy research that has received a lot of attention is microbial production of advanced biofuels. These include alcohols such as butanol, isopropanol, isobutanol, and fuels derived from fatty acids, isoprenoids, and polyhydroxyalkanoates. These fuels are superior to first generation biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel esterified from vegetable oil or animal fat), can be generated from non-food feedstock sources, can be used as supplements or substitutes for gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, and can be stored and distributed using existing infrastructure. Here we review the roles of genes associated with synthesis of advanced biofuels, and at the same time introduce the use of the GO to describe the functions of these genes in a standardized way.
Keywords: Gene Ontology; advanced alcohols; advanced biofuels; cellulosome; fatty acid-derived fuel; isoprenoid-derived fuel; synthetic biology.