A cellulolytic fungal biofilm enhances the consolidated bioconversion of cellulose to short chain fatty acids by the rumen microbiome

Authors: Xiros C, Shahab RL, Studer MH-P

The ability of the multispecies biofilm membrane reactors (MBM reactors) to provide distinguished niches for aerobic and anaerobic microbes at the same time was used for the investigation of the consolidated bioprocessing of cellulose to short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). A consortium based consolidated bioprocess (CBP) was designed. The rumen microbiome was used as the converting microbial consortium, co-cultivated with selected individual aerobic fungi which formed a biofilm on the tubular membrane flushed with oxygen. The beneficial effect of the fungal biofilm on the process yields and productivities was attributed to the enhanced cellulolytic activities compared with those achieved by the rumen microbiome alone. At 30 °C, the MBM system with Trichoderma reesei biofilm reached a concentration 39% higher (7.3 g/L SCFAs), than the rumen microbiome alone (5.1 g/L) using 15 g/L crystalline cellulose as the substrate. Fermentation temperature was crucial especially for the composition of the short chain fatty acids produced. The temperature increase resulted in shorter fatty acids produced. While a mixture of acetic, propionic, butyric, and caproic acids was produced at 30 °C with Trichoderma reesei biofilm, butyric and caproic acids were not detected during the fermentations at 37.5 °C carried out with Coprinopsis cinerea as the biofilm forming fungus. Apart from the presence of the fungal biofilm, no parameter studied had a significant impact on the total yield of organic acids produced, which reached 0.47 g of total SCFAs per g of cellulose (at 30 °C and at pH 6, with rumen inoculum to total volume ratio equal to 0.372).

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