Background: Bio-conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to high-value products offers numerous benefits; however, its development is hampered by chemical inhibitors generated during the pretreatment process. A better understanding of how microbes naturally respond to those inhibitors is valuable in the process of designing microorganisms with improved tolerance. Pseudomonas taiwanensis VLB120 is a natively tolerant strain that utilizes a wide range of carbon sources including pentose and hexose sugars. To this end, we investigated the tolerance and metabolic response of P. taiwanensis VLB120 towards biomass hydrolysate-derived inhibitors including organic acids (acetic acid, formic acid, and levulinic acid), furans (furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural), and phenols (vanillin). Results: The inhibitory effect of the tested compounds varied with respect to lag phase, specific growth rate, and biomass yield compared to the control cultures grown under the same conditions without addition of inhibitors. However, P. taiwanensis was able to oxidize vanillin and furfural to vanillic acid and 2-furoic acid, respectively. Vanillic acid was further metabolized, whereas 2-furoic acid was secreted outside the cells and remained in the fermentation broth without further conversion. Acetic acid and formic acid were completely consumed from the fermentation broth, while concentration of levulinic acid remained constant throughout the fermentation process. Analysis of free intracellular metabolites revealed varying levels when P. taiwanensis VLB120 was exposed to inhibitory compounds. This resulted in increased levels of ATP to export inhibitors from the cell and NADPH/NADP ratio that provides reducing power to deal with the oxidative stress caused by the inhibitors. Thus, adequate supply of these metabolites is essential for the survival and reproduction of P. taiwanensis in the presence of biomass-derived inhibitors. Conclusions: In this study, the tolerance and metabolic response of P. taiwanensis VLB120 to biomass hydrolysate-derived inhibitors was investigated. P. taiwanensis VLB120 showed high tolerance towards biomass hydrolysate-derived inhibitors compared to most wild-type microbes reported in the literature. It adopts different resistance mechanisms, including detoxification, efflux, and repair, which require additional energy and resources. Thus, targeting redox and energy metabolism in strain engineering may be a successful strategy to overcome inhibition during biomass hydrolysate conversion and lead to development of more robust strains.
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- Biomass hydrolysate inhibitors
- Inhibitor tolerance
- Pseudomonas taiwanensis