A novel cell factory for efficient production of ethanol from dairy waste

Jianming Liu, Shruti Harnal Dantoft, Anders Würtz, Peter Ruhdal Jensen, Christian Solem

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Sustainable and economically feasible ways to produce ethanol or other liquid fuels are becoming increasingly relevant due to the limited supply of fossil fuels and the environmental consequences associated with their consumption. Microbial production of fuel compounds has gained a lot of attention and focus has mostly been on developing bio-processes involving non-food plant biomass feedstocks. The high cost of the enzymes needed to degrade such feedstocks into its constituent sugars as well as problems due to various inhibitors generated in pretreatment are two challenges that have to be addressed if cost-effective processes are to be established. Various industries, especially within the food sector, often have waste streams rich in carbohydrates and/or other nutrients, and these could serve as alternative feedstocks for such bio-processes. The dairy industry is a good example, where large amounts of cheese whey or various processed forms thereof are generated. Because of their nutrient-rich nature, these substrates are particularly well suited as feedstocks for microbial production. We have generated a Lactococcus lactis strain which produces ethanol as its sole fermentation product from the lactose contained in residual whey permeate (RWP), by introducing lactose catabolism into a L. lactis strain CS4435 (MG1363 Δ(3) ldh, Δpta, ΔadhE, pCS4268), where the carbon flow has been directed toward ethanol instead of lactate. To achieve growth and ethanol production on RWP, we added corn steep liquor hydrolysate (CSLH) as the nitrogen source. The outcome was efficient ethanol production with a titer of 41 g/L and a yield of 70 % of the theoretical maximum using a fed-batch strategy. The combination of a low-cost medium from industrial waste streams and an efficient cell factory should make the developed process industrially interesting. A process for the production of ethanol using L. lactis and a cheap renewable feedstock was developed. The results demonstrate that it is possible to achieve sustainable bioconversion of waste products from the dairy industry (RWP) and corn milling industry (CSLH) to ethanol and the process developed shows great potential for commercial realization.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Corn steep liquor hydrolysate
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Lactose catabolism
  • Residual whey permeate


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