Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Bacteriology


Department of Biological Sciences

Additional Department

Thayer School of Engineering


Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum and Clostridium thermocellum are anaerobic thermophilic bacteria being investigated for their ability to produce biofuels from plant biomass. The bifunctional alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase gene, adhE, is present in these bacteria and has been known to be important for ethanol formation in other anaerobic alcohol producers. This study explores the inactivation of the adhE gene in C. thermocellum and T. saccharolyticum. Deletion of adhE reduced ethanol production by >95% in both T. saccharolyticum and C. thermocellum, confirming that adhE is necessary for ethanol formation in both organisms. In both adhE deletion strains, fermentation products shifted from ethanol to lactate production and resulted in lower cell density and longer time to reach maximal cell density. In T. saccharolyticum, the adhE deletion strain lost >85% of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity. Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity did not appear to be affected, although ALDH activity was low in cell extracts. Adding ubiquinone-0 to the ALDH assay increased activity in the T. saccharolyticum parent strain but did not increase activity in the adhE deletion strain, suggesting that ALDH activity was inhibited. In C. thermocellum, the adhE deletion strain lost >90% of ALDH and ADH activity in cell extracts. The C. thermocellum adhE deletion strain contained a point mutation in the lactate dehydrogenase gene, which appears to deregulate its activation by fructose 1,6-bisphosphate, leading to constitutive activation of lactate dehydrogenase.