Combinatorial pretreatment and fermentation optimization enabled a record yield on lignin bioconversion Academic Article uri icon


  • Background: Lignin valorization has recently been considered to be an essential process for sustainable and cost-effective biorefineries. Lignin represents a potential new feedstock for value-added products. Oleaginous bacteria such as Rhodococcus opacus can produce intracellular lipids from biodegradation of aromatic substrates. These lipids can be used for biofuel production, which can potentially replace petroleum-derived chemicals. However, the low reactivity of lignin produced from pretreatment and the underdeveloped fermentation technology hindered lignin bioconversion to lipids. In this study, combinatorial pretreatment with an optimized fermentation strategy was evaluated to improve lignin valorization into lipids using R. opacus PD630. Results: As opposed to single pretreatment, combinatorial pretreatment produced a 12.8-75.6% higher lipid concentration in fermentation using lignin as the carbon source. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis showed that combinatorial pretreatment released more aromatic monomers, which could be more readily utilized by lignin-degrading strains. Three detoxification strategies were used to remove potential inhibitors produced from pretreatment. After heating detoxification of the lignin stream, the lipid concentration further increased by 2.9-9.7%. Different fermentation strategies were evaluated in scale-up lipid fermentation using a 2.0-l fermenter. With laccase treatment of the lignin stream produced from combinatorial pretreatment, the highest cell dry weight and lipid concentration were 10.1 and 1.83 g/l, respectively, in fed-batch fermentation, with a total soluble substrate concentration of 40 g/l. The improvement of the lipid fermentation performance may have resulted from lignin depolymerization by the combinatorial pretreatment and laccase treatment, reduced inhibition effects by fed-batch fermentation, adequate oxygen supply, and an accurate pH control in the fermenter. Conclusions: Overall, these results demonstrate that combinatorial pretreatment, together with fermentation optimization, favorably improves lipid production using lignin as the carbon source. Combinatorial pretreatment integrated with fed-batch fermentation was an effective strategy to improve the bioconversion of lignin into lipids, thus facilitating lignin valorization in biorefineries.

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, Z., Xie, S., Lin, F., Jin, M., & Yuan, J. S.

citation count

  • 52

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Zhi-Hua||Xie, Shangxian||Lin, Furong||Jin, Mingjie||Yuan, Joshua S

publication date

  • December 2018