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Metabolic effects of furaldehydes and impacts on biotechnological processes


There is a growing awareness that lignocellulose will be a major raw material for production of both fuel and chemicals in the coming decades—most likely through various fermentation routes. Considerable attention has been given to the problem of finding efficient means of separating the major constituents in lignocellulose (i.e., lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose) and to efficiently hydrolyze the carbohydrate parts into sugars. In these processes, by-products will inevitably form to some extent, and these will have to be dealt with in the ensuing microbial processes. One group of compounds in this category is the furaldehydes. 2-Furaldehyde (furfural) and substituted 2-furaldehydes—most importantly 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde—are the dominant inhibitory compounds found in lignocellulosic hydrolyzates. The furaldehydes are known to have biological effects and act as inhibitors in fermentation processes. The effects of these compounds will therefore have to be considered in the design of biotechnological processes using lignocellulose. In this short review, we take a look at known metabolic effects, as well as strategies to overcome problems in biotechnological applications caused by furaldehydes.

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JA, MB, GL, and MFGG were financially supported by the Swedish Energy Agency. SG was financially supported by the Research Excellence Funds, ORSP, Central Michigan University.

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Correspondence to Gunnar Lidén.

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Almeida, J.R.M., Bertilsson, M., Gorwa-Grauslund, M.F. et al. Metabolic effects of furaldehydes and impacts on biotechnological processes. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 82, 625–638 (2009).

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  • Furfural
  • Hydroxymethylfurfural
  • Reductases
  • Bioconversion
  • Inhibition