BACKGROUND : Co-production of chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass alongside fuels holds promise for improving
the economic outlook of integrated biorefineries. In current biochemical conversion processes that use thermochemical
pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis, fractionation of hemicellulose-derived and cellulose-derived sugar
streams is possible using hydrothermal or dilute acid pretreatment (DAP), which then offers a route to parallel trains
for fuel and chemical production from xylose- and glucose-enriched streams. Succinic acid (SA) is a co-product of
particular interest in biorefineries because it could potentially displace petroleum-derived chemicals and polymer
precursors for myriad applications. However, SA production from biomass-derived hydrolysates has not yet been fully
explored or developed.
RESULTS : Here, we employ Actinobacillus succinogenes 130Z to produce succinate in batch fermentations from various
substrates including (1) pure sugars to quantify substrate inhibition, (2) from mock hydrolysates similar to those from
DAP containing single putative inhibitors, and (3) using the hydrolysate derived from two pilot-scale pretreatments:
first, a mild alkaline wash (deacetylation) followed by DAP, and secondly a single DAP step, both with corn stover.
These latter streams are both rich in xylose and contain different levels of inhibitors such as acetate, sugar dehydration
products (furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural), and lignin-derived products (ferulate, p-coumarate). In batch fermentations,
we quantify succinate and co-product (acetate and formate) titers as well as succinate yields and productivities.
We demonstrate yields of 0.74 g succinate/g sugars and 42.8 g/L succinate from deacetylated DAP hydrolysate,
achieving maximum productivities of up to 1.27 g/L-h. Moreover, A. succinogenes is shown to detoxify furfural via
reduction to furfuryl alcohol, although an initial lag in succinate production is observed when furans are present.
Acetate seems to be the main inhibitor for this bacterium present in biomass hydrolysates.
CONCLUSION : Overall, these results demonstrate that biomass-derived, xylose-enriched hydrolysates result in similar
yields and titers but lower productivities compared to clean sugar streams, which can likely be improved via fermentation
process developments and metabolic engineering. Overall, this study comprehensively examines the behavior
of A. succinogenes on xylose-enriched hydrolysates on an industrially relevant, lignocellulosic feedstock, which will pave the way for future work toward eventual SA production in an integrated biorefinery.