Resistance is Not Futile: JBEI Researchers Engineer Resistance to Ionic Liquids in Biofuel Microbes

March 26, 2014

Michael Thelen, Thomas Ruegg and Blake Simmons, of JBEI’s Deconstruction Division, led the identification of the genetic origins of a resistance to ionic liquids found in a tropical rainforest microbe. This genetic mechanism was then successfully introduced into a strain of E. coli that’s been engineered to produce advanced biofuels. Ionic liquids are used to make cellulosic biomass digestible for the E.coli but have had to be completely removed prior to fermentation because of toxicity. Ionic liquid resistance eliminates this bottleneck. Also contributing to this research were Eun-Mi Kim, Jay Keasling, Steven Singer and Taek Soon Lee.