castanyes blaves

Random ramblings about some random stuff, and things; but more stuff than things -- all in a mesmerizing and kaleidoscopic soapbox-like flow of words.



Myco-diesel from the fungalgenomes

Fill-er-up with Myco-diesel?
So this is actually old-ish news, but I saw this press release about paper published last year describing the ability of the fungus Gliocladium roseum to naturally synthesizes diesel compounds. The paper from Gary Strobel @Montana State and collaborators describes that G. roseum produces volatile hydrocarbon on cellulose media. Extracts from the host plant (Eucryphia cordifolia) were also able to support growth of the fungus alone. This production of products have been dubbed “myco-diesel”. G. roseum is an endophyte of E. cordifolia I wonder what kinds of advantages it might provide for the fungus or the plant to produce these hydrocarbons.

I wonder if it is better to focus on these organisms that have already evolved a way to make these hydrocarbons directly from cellulose rather than the multistep process of making easy to process sugars from different starting plant materials and then ethanol or other hydrocarbons from yeast or bacteria growing on that sugar. Growth rates, amenability to grow in bioreactors, etc certainly are considerations in building production systems, but I wonder whether these kind of finding represent inroads to solving our problems or if they are peripheral to the current bioengineering approaches that are underway.

Some of the earlier press releases I had missed it seems:

* Rainforest fungus makes diesel
* Diesel Fuel From a Tree Fungus?
* Google news

G. A. Strobel, B. Knighton, K. Kluck, Y. Ren, T. Livinghouse, M. Griffin, D. Spakowicz, J. Sears (2008). The production of myco-diesel hydrocarbons and their derivatives by the endophytic fungus Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50072) Microbiology, 154 (11), 3319-3328 DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.2008/022186-0

My microbiology teacher used to be very pessimistic about this ten years ago. He would say: "It's all a matter of not being able to concentrate the product at the end!". I wasn't so pessimistic back then and I am even more optimistic nowadays, but I still think there is a lot of basic engineering to be done after the biological candidates have been proven useful. Where are the good engineers when one needs them?

Maybe we will need an engineered organism that produces controlled "blooms" that are easy to separate... Who knows...


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