A group of researchers enlist fungi and E. coli to make the first biofuel of its kind. It is an obvious idea—in fact, it’s how nature disposes of trees after they die. Yet before researchers at the University of Michigan tried it, no one had paired bacterium with fungus to make cellulosic biofuel.
The team took Trichoderma reesei, a fungi widely known for its ability to efficiently decompose the non-edible parts of plants, plus a specially engineered strain of the bacteria Escherichia coli, and applied them both to a vat of dried cornhusks. After the fungi degraded the husks into sugars, the bacteria finished the job. The result was isobutanol, a colorless, flammable liquid that researchers hope could one day replace gasoline.
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