One-carbon (C1) compounds are promising feedstocks for the sustainable production of commodity chemicals. CO2 is a particularly advantageous C1-feedstock since it is an unwanted industrial off-gas that can be converted into valuable products while reducing its atmospheric levels. Acetogens are microorganisms that can grow on CO2/H2 gas mixtures and syngas converting these substrates into ethanol and acetate. Co-cultivation of acetogens with other microbial species that can further process such products, can expand the variety of products to, for example, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) and longer chain alcohols. Solventogens are microorganisms known to produce MCFA and alcohols via the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation in which acetate is a key metabolite. Thus, co-cultivation of an acetogen and a solventogen in a consortium provides a potential platform to produce valuable chemicals from CO2. In this study, metabolic modeling was implemented to design a new co-culture of an acetogen and a solventogen to produce butyrate from CO2/H2 mixtures. The model-driven approach suggested the ability of the studied solventogenic species to grow on lactate/glycerol with acetate as co-substrate. This ability was confirmed experimentally by cultivation of Clostridium beijerinckii on these substrates in batch serum bottles and subsequently in pH-controlled bioreactors. Community modeling also suggested that a novel microbial consortium consisting of the acetogen Clostridium autoethanogenum, and the solventogen C. beijerinckii would be feasible and stable. On the basis of this prediction, a co-culture was experimentally established. C. autoethanogenum grew on CO2/H2 producing acetate and traces of ethanol. Acetate was in turn, consumed by C. beijerinckii together with lactate, producing butyrate. These results show that community modeling of metabolism is a valuable tool to guide the design of microbial consortia for the tailored production of chemicals from renewable resources.
- Clostridium autoethanogenum
- Clostridium beijerinckii
- constraint-based metabolic modeling
- microbial communities