Detoxification of a pyrolytic aqueous condensate from wheat straw for utilization as substrate in Aspergillus oryzae DSM 1863 cultivations

Biotechnol Biofuels Bioprod. 2022 Feb 17;15(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s13068-022-02115-z.


Background: The pyrolytic aqueous condensate (PAC) formed during the fast pyrolysis of wheat straw contains a variety of organic carbons and might therefore potentially serve as an inexpensive substrate for microbial growth. One of its main components is acetic acid, which was recently shown to be a suitable carbon source for the filamentous fungus Aspergillus oryzae. However, the condensate also contains numerous toxic compounds that inhibit fungal growth and result in a tolerance of only about 1%. Therefore, to enable the use of the PAC as sole substrate for A. oryzae cultivations, a pretreatment seems to be necessary.

Results: Various conditions for treatments with activated carbon, overliming, rotary evaporation and laccase were evaluated regarding fungal growth and the content of inhibitory model substances. Whereas the first three methods considerably increased the fungal tolerance to up to 1.625%, 12.5% and 30%, respectively, the enzymatic treatment did not result in any improvement. The optimum carbon load for the treatment with activated carbon was identified to be 10% (w/v) and overliming should ideally be performed at 100 °C and an initial pH of 12. The best detoxification results were achieved with rotary evaporation at 200 mbar as a complete removal of guaiacol and a strong reduction in the concentration of acetol, furfural, 2-cyclopenten-1-one and phenol by 84.9%, 95.4%, 97.7% and 86.2%, respectively, were observed. Subsequently, all possible combinations of the effective single methods were performed and rotary evaporation followed by overliming and activated carbon treatment proved to be most efficient as it enabled growth in 100% PAC shake-flask cultures and resulted in a maximum cell dry weight of 5.21 ± 0.46 g/L.

Conclusion: This study provides a comprehensive insight into the detoxification efficiency of a variety of treatment methods at multiple conditions. It was revealed that with a suitable combination of these methods, PAC toxicity can be reduced to such an extent that growth on pure condensate is possible. This can be considered as a first important step towards a microbial valorization of the pyrolytic side-stream with A. oryzae.

Keywords: Acetate utilization; Fast pyrolysis; Fungal biotechnology; Lignocellulose valorization; Pretreatment.