Bioinformatic resources for investigating clostridial metabolism

Solventogenic clostridia offer a promising and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based production of butanol — an important industrial chemical feedstock and fuel additive or replacement1. They also draw our attention for their potential in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and relieving the threat of global warming. It is of paramount importance to elucidate the metabolism of clostridia for metabolism engineering and industrial applications of gas fermentation. In addition to standard experimental approaches, bioinformatics provides us with an efficient way to identify targets (genetic or biochemical) that can be controlled to improve the product formation. In this post, I briefly summarise bioinformatic resources that are publicly accessible to date for interrogating clostridial metabolism.

A technical overview of C1 gas fermentation

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are abundant one-carbon (C1) components of greenhouse gases and their atmospheric concentrations have seen a drastic increase since the industrial revolution. Besides industrial activities, agricultural practice also causes substantial emissions of these two kinds of gases. Nowadays it is an urgent demand to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases for controlling global warming. Biological conversion of C1 gases to industrial high-value hydrocarbon-based chemicals (such as the ABE — acetone, butanol and ethanol1) via fermentation has been proven to be an effective approach to meet the demand without completing for photosynthetic resources (e.g., food) or land2. Through converting waste C1 gases into biofuels, we can reduce our reliance and demand on fossil fuels, which in turn reduces our total carbon emission. Because of this great environmental benefit, here I outline technologies that recycle waste C1 gases for industrial and environmental purposes.