Microbial fermentation of sugars from plant biomass to alcohols represents an alternative to petroleum-based fuels. The optimal biocatalyst for such fermentations needs to overcome hurdles such as high concentrations of alcohols and toxic compounds. Lactic acid bacteria, especially lactobacilli, have high innate alcohol tolerance and are remarkably adaptive to harsh environments. This study assessed the potential of five Lactobacillus casei strains as biocatalysts for alcohol production. L. casei 12A was selected based upon its innate alcohol tolerance, high transformation efficiency and ability to utilize plant-derived carbohydrates. A 12A derivative engineered to produce ethanol (L. casei E1) was compared to two other bacterial biocatalysts. Maximal growth rate, maximal optical density and ethanol production were determined under conditions similar to those present during alcohol production from lignocellulosic feedstocks. L. casei E1 exhibited higher innate alcohol tolerance, better growth in the presence of corn stover hydrolysate stressors, and resulted in higher ethanol yields.
Keywords: Alcohol; Biofuels; Lactobacillus casei; Tolerance.