Methanol Production by Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum SolV under Different Growth Conditions
SourceApplied and Environmental Microbiology, 86, 18, (2020), pp. e01188-20
1 september 2020
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Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Industrial methanol production converts methane from natural gas into methanol through a multistep chemical process. Biological methane-to-methanol conversion under moderate conditions and using biogas would be more environmentally friendly. Methanotrophs, bacteria that use methane as an energy source, convert methane into methanol in a single step catalyzed by the enzyme methane monooxygenase, but inhibition of methanol dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the subsequent conversion of methanol into formaldehyde, is a major challenge. In this study, we used the thermoacidophilic methanotroph “Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum” SolV for biological methanol production. This bacterium possesses a XoxF-type methanol dehydrogenase that is dependent on rare earth elements for activity. By using a cultivation medium nearly devoid of lanthanides, we reduced methanol dehydrogenase activity and obtained a continuous methanol-producing microbial culture. The methanol production rate and conversion efficiency were growth-rate dependent. A maximal conversion efficiency of 63% mol methanol produced per mol methane consumed was obtained at a relatively high growth rate, with a methanol production rate of 0.88 mmol/g (dry weight)/h. This study demonstrates that methanotrophs can be used for continuous methanol production. Full-scale application will require additional increases in the titer, production rate, and efficiency, which can be achieved by further decreasing the lanthanide concentration through the use of increased biomass concentrations and novel reactor designs to supply sufficient gases, including methane, oxygen, and hydrogen.IMPORTANCE The production of methanol, an important chemical, is completely dependent on natural gas. The current multistep chemical process uses high temperature and pressure to convert methane in natural gas to methanol. In this study, we used the methanotroph “Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum” SolV to achieve continuous methanol production from methane as the substrate. The production rate was highly dependent on the growth rate of this microorganism, and high conversion efficiencies were obtained. Using microorganisms for the production of methanol might enable the use of more sustainable sources of methane, such as biogas, rather than natural gas.
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