The Anaerobic Fungi: Challenges and Opportunities for Industrial Lignocellulosic Biofuel Production

Luke M G Saye, Tejas A Navaratna, James P J Chong, Michelle A O'Malley, Michael K Theodorou, Matthew Reilly

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Lignocellulose is a promising feedstock for biofuel production as a renewable, carbohydrate-rich and globally abundant source of biomass. However, challenges faced include environmental and/or financial costs associated with typical lignocellulose pretreatments needed to overcome the natural recalcitrance of the material before conversion to biofuel. Anaerobic fungi are a group of underexplored microorganisms belonging to the early diverging phylum Neocallimastigomycota and are native to the intricately evolved digestive system of mammalian herbivores. Anaerobic fungi have promising potential for application in biofuel production processes due to the combination of their highly effective ability to hydrolyse lignocellulose and capability to convert this substrate to H2 and ethanol. Furthermore, they can produce volatile fatty acid precursors for subsequent biological conversion to H2 or CH4 by other microorganisms. The complex biological characteristics of their natural habitat are described, and these features are contextualised towards the development of suitable industrial systems for in vitro growth. Moreover, progress towards achieving that goal is reviewed in terms of process and genetic engineering. In addition, emerging opportunities are presented for the use of anaerobic fungi for lignocellulose pretreatment; dark fermentation; bioethanol production; and the potential for integration with methanogenesis, microbial electrolysis cells and photofermentation.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2021

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