Genetic engineering for enhanced productivity in bioelectrochemical systems

Adv Appl Microbiol. 2020;111:1-31. doi: 10.1016/bs.aambs.2020.01.001. Epub 2020 Feb 8.


A shift from petrochemical processes toward a bio-based economy is one of the most advocated developments for a sustainable future. To achieve this will require the biotechnological production of platform chemicals that can be further processed by chemical engineering. Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) are a novel tool within the biotechnology field. In BESs, microbes serve as biocatalysts for the production of biofuels and value-added compounds, as well as for the production of electricity. Although the general feasibility of bioelectrochemical processes has been demonstrated in recent years, much research has been conducted to develop biocatalysts better suited to meet industrial demands. Initially, mainly natural exoelectrogenic organisms were investigated for their performance in BESs. Driven by possibilities of recent developments in genetic engineering and synthetic biology, the spectrum of microbial catalysts and their versatility (substrate and product range) have expanded significantly. Despite these developments, there is still a tremendous gap between currently achievable space-time yields and current densities on the one hand and the theoretical limits of BESs on the other. It will be necessary to move the performance of the biocatalysts closer to the theoretical possibilities in order to establish viable production routines. This review summarizes the status quo of engineering microbial biocatalysts for anode-applications with high space-time yields. Furthermore, we will address some of the theoretical limitations of these processes exemplarily and discuss which of the present strategies might be combined to achieve highly synergistic effects and, thus, meet industrial demands.

Keywords: Anode interaction; Bioelectrochemical systems; Exoelectrogens; Genetic engineering; Microbiology; Platform chemicals; Productive biofilm; c-type cytochromes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biocatalysis*
  • Bioelectric Energy Sources / microbiology*
  • Electricity
  • Electrochemical Techniques / methods*
  • Electrodes
  • Electron Transport*
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Industrial Microbiology