The anticipation for substituting conventional fossil fuels with cellulosic biofuels is growing in the face of increasing demand for energy and rising concerns of greenhouse gas emissions. However, commercial production of cellulosic biofuel has been hampered by inefficient fermentation of xylose and the toxicity of acetic acid, which constitute substantial portions of cellulosic biomass. Here we use a redox balancing strategy to enable efficient xylose fermentation and simultaneous in situ detoxification of cellulosic feedstocks. By combining a nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH)-consuming acetate consumption pathway and an NADH-producing xylose utilization pathway, engineered yeast converts cellulosic sugars and toxic levels of acetate together into ethanol under anaerobic conditions. The results demonstrate a breakthrough in making efficient use of carbon compounds in cellulosic biomass and present an innovative strategy for metabolic engineering whereby an undesirable redox state can be exploited to drive desirable metabolic reactions, even improving productivity and yield.
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