Thermodynamics-based design of microbial cell factories for anaerobic product formation

Hugo F. Cueto-Rojas, A. J.A. van Maris, S. Aljoscha Wahl*, J. J. Heijnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The field of metabolic engineering has delivered new microbial cell factories and processes for the production of different compounds including biofuels, (di)carboxylic acids, alcohols, and amino acids. Most of these processes are aerobic, with few exceptions (e.g., alcoholic fermentation), and attention is focused on assembling a high-flux product pathway with a production limit usually set by the oxygen transfer rate. By contrast, anaerobic product synthesis offers significant benefits compared to aerobic systems: higher yields, less heat generation, reduced biomass production, and lower mechanical energy input, which can significantly reduce production costs. Using simple thermodynamic calculations, we demonstrate that many products can theoretically be produced under anaerobic conditions using several conventional and non-conventional substrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-546
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Anaerobic product formation
  • Bioprocess design
  • Microbial cell factories
  • Thermodynamics


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