Ying Zhu and Shang Tian Yang

Department of Chemical Engineering, The Ohio State University, 140 West 19th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

Butyric acid has wide applications in food and pharmaceutical industries. Its production by fermentation from natural resources has become an increasingly attractive alternative to the petroleum-based production route currently used in the chemical industry. In this work, novel metabolic engineering approaches, at both molecular biology and process engineering levels, were developed for enhanced butyric acid production by Clostridium tyrobutyricum. Recombinant DNA technology was used to knock out genes in the acetate formation pathway and to overexpress genes in the butyrate formation pathway in mutant strains with improved butyrate production as compared to the wild-type strain. Also, a novel fibrous bed bioreactor (FBB) was used for fermentation of xylose to produce butyrate with enhanced reactor productivity, product concentration and yield. Cells in die FBB were able to grow into high density and adapt to tolerate a higher butyrate concentration, which was not achievable in conventional fermentation systems.

© 2004 American Chemical Society


Plant biomass is the only foreseeable sustainable source of organic fuels, chemicals, and materials. Recently, increasing concerns about future scarcity, cost, and environmental impact of fossil fuel have enlarged public interest in the technologies for using cheap renewable biomass. Biologically based processing technologies provide an attractive route to develop more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable methods for producing a wide range of products, including fuels, chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and industrial solvents. Biomass feedstocks include agricultural residues and industrial wastes, which usually require costly disposal to avoid pollution problems. Successfiil conversion of biomass to products requires an efficient bioprocess for economically viable industrial applications. In this work, we aimed at developing a novel fermentation process to economically produce butyric acid from low-value agricultural commodities such as corn and its byproducts which are rich in both glucose and xylose.

Butyric acid has many applications in the chemical industry as well as food and pharmaceutical industries. It is used in the form of pure acid to enhance butter-like notes in food flavors. Esters of butyric acid are used as additives for increasing fruit fragrance and as aromatic compounds for production of perfumes (1). Butyric acid is one of the short-chain fatty acids generated by microbial fermentation of dietary substrates, and is considered to have therapeutic nature for the treatment of colorectal cancer and hemoglobinopathies (2). Drugs derived from butyric acid have been widely studied and developed. Butyric acid is currently produced mainly by oxidation of butyraldehyde obtained from propylene by oxosynthesis, with a market price of $1.21/kg (3). However, the demand for butyric acid from microbial fermentation is high due to increasing health concerns and a strong interest in using biologically produced food additives preferred by food manufacturers. The potential markets for bio-based butyric acid and its esters are thus big and awaiting for exploration.

However, current technology for bio-production of butyric acid is not competitive as compared with petrochemical production because butyric acid-producing bacteria convert sugars to acetic acid in addition to butyric acid as their major fermentation products (4) and are inhibited by butyric acid (5). Conventional fermentation processes usually suffer from low final product concentration, low reactor productivity, and low product yield. A combination of classical genetics, bioprocess engineering, and metabolic manipulation can be used effectively to improve biosynthetic processes (6). In this study, we worked on both molecular biology and process engineering levels to develop an efficient bioprocess for butyric acid production from glucose and xylose.

The main objective of this study was to obtain butyrate-producing mutants of Clostridium tyrobutyricum that are capable of producing butyrate with a high yield and tolerating a high butyrate concentration. Genetic improvements in microbial cultures have been made to channel metabolic intermediates specifically toward a desired product (7). Since there usually is concomitant production of acetate in butyric acid fermentation, disruption of the genes ack and pta involved in the acetate formation pathway should improve the butyrate yield from sugars fermented. Meanwhile, butyrate production may be further enhanced by overexpressing genes (buk and ptb genes) in the butyrate formation pathway. In this work, we have developed mutant strains with improved characteristics for butyric acid fermentation by gene inactivation and overexpression techniques. The effects of gene disruption and overexpression on cell growth and fermentation kinetics of the mutants were studied and are reported here. To achieve a high butyrate concentration in the fermentation, we used a fibrous bed bioreactor (FBB) previously developed for organic acid fermentations (8-12) to adapt the cells to tolerate a higher butyrate concentration. The feasibility and advantages of the FBB for butyric acid production from xylose were also evaluated in this study. It was found that with high densities of cells immobilized in the fibrous matrix, the FBB greatly increased reactor productivity, final product concentration, and product yield as compared with conventional free-cell fermentations.

Materials and Methods

Culture and Media

The bacterium C. tyrobutyricum ATCC 25755 was used for butyric acid fermentation. It was cultured in a clostridial growth medium (CGM) described previously (9) with either glucose or xylose as the substrate. The stock culture was kept in serum bottles under anaerobic conditions at 4°C. In the molecular biology study, C. tyrobutyricum was grown anaerobically at 37°C in Reinforced Clostridial Medium (RCM, Difco). Colonies were maintained on RCM plates. RCM or CGM medium was supplemented, as required, with 40 jig/ml erythromycin (Em) or 20 ng/ml thiamphenicol (Th). E. coli used in the cloning work was grown aerobically at 37°C in Luria-Bertani (LB) medium supplemented with ampicillin (100 ng/ml) and erythromycin (200 ng/ml).

Mutant Development by Genetic Engineering

DNA Isolation and Manipulation. Isolation of plasmid DNA from E. coli was undertaken using QIAprep Miniprep plasmid purification kit (Qiagen). Restriction enzymes, T4 ligase, and shrimp alkaline phosphatase were used in accordance with the supplier's instruction (Amersham Pharmacia). Genomic DNA from C. tyrobutyricum was isolated by using QIAGEN genomic DNA kit.

PCR Amplification. Several synthetic oligonucleotides (Integrated DNA) were designed and used as primers for PCR. The sequences of the PCR primers for ack gene were 5'- GAT AC(A/T) GC(A/T) TT(C/T) CA(C/T) CA(A/G) AC -3' and 5'- (G/C)(A/T)(A/G) TT(C/T) TC(A/T) CC(A/T) AT(A/T) CC(A/T) CC -3'. The sequences of primers for pta gene were 5'- GA(A/G) (C/T)T(A/T/G) AG(A/G) AA(A/G) CA(T/C) AA(A/G) GG(A/T) ATG AC- 3' and 5'-{A/r)GC CTG (A/T)(G/A)C (A/T)GC(A/T/C) GT(A/T) AT(A/T) GC-3'. Thermal cycling was performed to carry out the amplification in a DNA engine (MJ Research), using C. tyrobutyricum genomic DNA as the template. DNA fragments of ack gene and pta gene with expected sizes of 560 bp and 730 bp respectively, were amplified, and then cloned into PCR vector pCR 2.1 to form pCR-AK and pCR-PTA using TA cloning (Invitrogen).

Construction of Integrational Plasmids. A 1.5 kb Sph I fragment was removed from pCR-AK (4.6 kb) and pCR-PTA (4.75 kb), and the vectors were religated to form pCR-AKl and pCR-PTAl. A 1.6 kb Hindül fragment containing the Emr cassette was removed from pDG 647 (13), and then ligated into Hindm digested pCR-AK 1 and pCR-PTAl to form the integrational Plasmids pAK-Em (4.7 kb) and pPTA-Em (4.85 kb).

Construction of Replicative Plasmids. The butyrate operon (ptb and buk genes) from C. acetobutylicum was amplified by PCR using plasmid pJC7 as template, subcloned into pCR 2.1, and then digested by EcoRI. A 2.2 kb EcoRl fragment containing butyrate operon was subcloned into pIMPTH to form pTHBUT (7.1 kb) (14).

Transformation. Plasmid transformation to E. coli was performed according to the manufacturer's instruction (Invitrogen). Transformation of plasmids into C. tyrobutyricum was carried out using a Bio-Rad Gene pulser in an anaerobic chamber. The competent cells were prepared as follows: mid exponential-growth phase cells grown in CGM were harvested, washed twice and suspended in ice-cold electroporation buffer (SMP; 270 mM sucrose, 7 mM sodium phosphate, pH 7.4, 1 mM MgCl2). Cell suspension (0.5 ml) was chilled on ice for 5 min in a 0.4 cm electroporation cuvette (Bio-Rad), and plasmid DNA (1 fig) was added to the suspension and mixed well. After the pulse had been applied (2.5 kV, 600 Q, 25 |iF), cells were transferred to 5 ml RCM and incubated for 4 h at 37°C prior to plating on RCM containing 40 fig/ml Em or 20 |ig/ml Th. The mutant strains containing pAK-Em, pPTA-Em, and pTHBUT were selected and are denoted as PAK-EM, PPTA-EM, and WT(pTHBUT), respectively.

Fermentation Kinetic Study. Fed-batch fermentations were carried out in 5-L stirred-tank fermentors to study the fermentation kinetics of various mutant strains and to evaluate the maximum butyric acid concentration achievable in fermentation.

Fibrous-Bed Bioreactor

Construction and Operation. The fibrous bed bioreactor was made of a glass column packed with spiral wound cotton towel and had a working volume of -480 ml. Detailed description of the reactor construction has been given elsewhere (10). The reactor was connected to a 5-L stirred-tank fermentor (Marubishi MD-300) through a recirculation loop and operated under well-mixed condition with pH and temperature controls. Anaerobiosis was maintained by initially sparging the medium in the fermentor with N2 and then kept the fermentor headspace under 5 psig N2 during the entire fermentation run. Unless otherwise noted, the reactor containing 2 L of medium was maintained at 37°C, agitated at 150 rpm, and pH controlled at 6.0 by adding NH4OH.

Fermentation and Culture Adaptation. To start die fermentation, -100 ml of cell suspension in serum bottles were inoculated to the fermentor and allowed to grow for 3 days until the cell concentration reached an optical density (OD620nm) of -4.0. Cell immobilization was then carried out by circulating the fermentation broth through the fibrous bed at a pumping rate of ~25 ml/min to allow cells attach and be immobilized onto die fibrous matrix. After about 36~48 h of continuous circulation, most of the cells were immobilized and no change in cell density in the medium could be identified. The medium circulation rate was then increased to -100 ml/min and the reactor was operated at a repeated batch mode to increase the cell density in the fibrous bed to a stable, high level (>50 g/L). To adapt die culture to tolerate a higher butyrate concentration, the feactor was then operated at fed-batch mode by pulse feeding concentrated substrate solution whenever the sugar level in the fermentation broth was close to zero. The feeding was continued until the fermentation ceased to produce butyrate due to product inhibition. Samples were taken at regular intervals for the analysis of cell, substrate and product concentrations. At the end of the fed-batch experiment, immobilized cells in the FBB were washed off from the fibrous matrix and stored at 4°C for further characterization.

Preparation of Cell Extracts and Acid-Forming Enzyme Assays

C. tyrobutyricum was grown in CGM (50 ml) at 37°C to the exponential phase (OD62o = -1.5). Cells were harvested, washed and suspended in 25 mM Tris/HCl (pH 7.4). The cell suspension was sonicated, and cell debris was removed by centrifugation. The protein content of extracts was determined by the method of Bradford with bovine serum albumin as the standard (Bio-Rad protein assay). The activities of acetate kinase (AK) and butyrate kinase (BK) were measured in the direction of acyl phosphate formation based on the protocol of Rose (15). One unit of activity is defined as the amount of enzyme that produces 1 ¿imol of hydroxamic acid per minute under these conditions. Phosphotransacetylase (PTA) and phosphotransbutyrylase (PTB) were assayed by the method of Andersch et al. (16). One unit of enzyme is defined as the amount of enzyme converting 1 jumol of acyl-CoA or butyryl-CoA per minute under the reaction conditions. Specific activity of enzymes is defined as the units of activity per mg of protein.

Butyrate Tolerance Study

Cultures were grown in serum tubes containing 10 ml of media with various amounts of butyrate (0-15 g/L) to evaluate the inhibition effect of butyrate on cell growth, which was followed by measuring the optical density at 620 nm with a spectrophotometer. Specific growth rates were calculated from the growth data in the exponential phase.

Analytical Methods

Cell density was analyzed by measuring the optical density of cell suspension at 620 nm (OD62o) with a spectrophotometer. An HPLC system (Shimadzu) was used to analyze the organic compounds, including butyrate, acetate, glucose and xylose, present in the fermentation broth. Gas production was monitored using an on-line respirometer Micro-oxymax system equipped with both H2 and C02 sensors (Columbus Instrument).

Results and Discussion

Gene Inactivation and Overexpression

Selective inactivation of genes on the chromosome using non-replicative integrational plasmids has emerged as a new genetic engineering technology to obtain mutants with desirable metabolic properties (17). It has been applied in the inactivation of several genes in C. acetobutylicum (18-20). The non-replicative integrational plasmid usually contains a DNA segment from a host in which they cannot replicate, and a genetic marker for which selection can be made. After transfer, the plasmid becomes established by inserting into the homologous regions on the host chromosome from which the DNA segment was derived. Integration occurs in a Campbell-like fashion (21), and results in duplicated homologous regions flanking the plasmid DNA. If the homologous DNA fragments are internal to the transcription unit, it will result in disruption of the unit and loss of function, possibly producing a mutant phenotype. This is called integrational mutagenesis. In this work, non-replicative plasmids pAK-Em and pPTA-Em were constructed and used to transform C. tyrobutyricum to disrupt the acetate-forming genes ack and pta (encoding AK and PTA in acetate formation) on the chromosome. Since the homologous regions in pAK-Em and pPTA-Em are internal genes of ack and pta, the insertion would be mutagenic and the original genes on the chromosome would be disrupted.

Exponential-phase cultures of C. tyrobutyricum wild-type, PAK-Em, and PPTA-Em were harvested and cell extracts were assayed for acetate and butyrate-producing enzymes (AK, PTA, BK, PTB). Strain PAK-Em displayed 54% lower AK activity and approximately 130% higher PTA activity than the wild-type. Strain PPTA-Em had only 20-40% of AK and PTA activities compared to the wild-type strain. These results indicated that ack was inactivated in mutant PAK-Em and pta was inactivated in mutant PPTA-Em. PPTA-Em also had reduced AK activity, indicating that the expression of ack was also inhibited. Similar result has been reported for pta deleted mutant of C. acetobutylicum (20). It has been reported that the acetate-fomiing genes ack and pta in C. acetobutylicum exist in the same operon on the chromosome with pta preceding ack (22). Likewise, a similar structure of acetate-forming genes with ack lying downstream from pta in the same operon may be present in C. tyrobutyricum.

Plasmid pTHBUT containing the butyrate operon from C. acetobutylicum was introduced into the wild-type C. tyrobutyricum. The presence of butyrate operon in pTHBUT resulted in 2-3 folds increase in the PTB activity and 30% reduction in AK and 50% reduction in PTA activities as compared with the wildtype strain. However, the BK activity was not affected at all. In contrast, the activities of PTB and BK increased by more than 6 folds in C. acetobutylicum (23, 24) and there was 2-fold increase in PTB and 40-fold increase in BK in the BK-deleted mutant of C. acetobutylicum (14) after introducing the overexpression plasmid. Apparently, the buk and ptb genes from C. acetobutylicum did not work as well in C. tyrobutyricum.

Culture Adaptation in FBB

Fed-batch fermentation was performed to adapt the wild-type strain to higher butyrate concentrations. After several fed-batches, cells in die FBB were removed and grown as suspension culture to examine their enzyme activities. The results were compared with those of the original culture used to seed the bioreactor. Based on the acid-forming enzyme assays, the adapted culture from the FBB showed -65% higher PTB and -50% higher BK activities, both of which are involved in butyrate production. Also, its PTB was -18% less sensitive to butyrate inhibition than that from the original culture. The higher butyrate-forming enzyme activities must have contributed to faster butyrate production in the FBB culture observed in the fermentation study. These results indicate that the adapted culture from the FBB had a different phenotype from the original culture.

Fermentation Kinetic Studies

Fermentation studies were carried out in both genetically engineered mutants and wild-type (Figure 1). Both PAK-Em and PPTA-Em strains grew exponentially in the first two batches and then entered the stationary phase (Figure lb and lc). Acetate was produced after the lag phase and reached the maximum value of -12 g/L after the third fed-batch. Butyrate concentration continued to increase until at the end of the fermentation due to product inhibition. The maximum level of butyric acid was 42-43 g/L in both ack and pta deleted mutant fermentations, which was 33% higher than that obtained in fermentation with the wild-type strain (Figure la). Table I summarizes the kinetic data for these fermentations. It is clear that ack and pta deletion gave lower acetate yield, higher butyrate productivity and final concentration, and consequently, higher selectivity of butyrate over acetate. The ack deleted mutant PAK-Em increased butyrate yield to 36% from 31% of the wild-type. The pta deleted mutant PPTA-Em had a similar butyrate yield as the wild-type but lower gas production.

Gene integration had a significant effect on cell growth. Both mutant strains, PAK-Em and PPTA-Em, have reduced growth rate compared to the wild-type, but reached higher biomass concentrations (Table I). This observation is similar to that found in pta or buk inactivated C. acetobutylicum (20). Since both acid-formation pathways are responsible for generating energy (ATP) for cells, a reduced acetate production may impose a metabolic burden on cells. A feasible cellular response to this metabolic burden is the elevation of the flux through the alternate ATP-generation pathway, namely butyrate formation, to avoid any significant loss in overall cell growth.

Compared to the wild-type strain, the overexpression mutant WT(pTHBUT) also grew slower with a specific growth rate of 0.196 h"1 (see Table I). As expected, WT(pTHBUT) had a higher butyrate productivity (0.52 vs. 0.48 g/L-h in wild-type) and higher butyrate yield (0.36 vs. 0.26 g/g glucose in wild-type) in the first batch. Acetate yield was very similar between WT(pTHBUT) (0.13 g/g glucose) and wild-type (0.11 g/g glucose). As a result, there was a greater proportion of C4 versus C2 derived products in WT(pTHBUT), and consequently, the selectivity of butyrate over acetate was improved. However, the final concentration of butyrate produced by WT(pTHBUT) was unexpectedly lower (-12 g/L) than the wild-type. As can be seen in Figure Id, after the first batch, the cells stopped producing acids and cell density started to decrease significantly, indicating severe inhibition by butyrate, which will be further discussed later. An increase in butyrate production and decrease in acetate produdtion have been observed for the BK-deleted mutant of C.

L WlldTVp®


» Glucose? *x—







\ Acetate

100 120

100 120

20 30


Figure 1. Fed-batch fermentation of glucose by C. tyrobutyricum at pH 6.0 and 37°C. (a) wild-type; (b) PAK-Em; (c) PPTA-Em; (d) WTfpTHBUT).

20 30


Figure 1. Fed-batch fermentation of glucose by C. tyrobutyricum at pH 6.0 and 37°C. (a) wild-type; (b) PAK-Em; (c) PPTA-Em; (d) WTfpTHBUT).

acetobutylicum transformed with the overexpression plasmid in the acidogenic phase (14); however, the final butyrate concentration in the solventogenic cultue of wild-type C. acetobutylicum harboring the overexpression plasmid also decreased (23). Gene overexpression in this case did not improve the butyrate fermentation, probably because the heterologous genes (enzymes) from C. acetobutylicum were too sensitive to butyrate inhibition and tended to shift metabolic pathway towards butyrate reassimilation (23). Further study should be carried out to overexpress the native buk and ptb genes.

Table I. Fermentation Characteristics of various C. tyrobutyricum strains in Fed-Batch Cultures Controlled at pH 6.0,37 °C.







Max. OD










Yield (g/g)






Concentration (g/L)





Yield (g/g)





Productivity (g/L-h)






Concentration (g/L)





Yield (g/g)






H2 yield (g/g)





C02 yield (g/g)





Figure 2 shows the fermentation kinetics for butyric acid production from xylose by wild-type free cells and immobilized cells in the FBB. As compared to the free-cell fermentation, the immobilized-cell fermentation not only was faster but also produced a much higher butyrate concentration. The highest butyric acid concentration produced in the free-cell fermentation was only ~19 g/L, whereas butyric acid reached a concentration of ~58 g/L in the immobilized-cell fermentation with a yield of 0.47 g/g and a reactor productivity of 2.7 g/L-h. In contrast, the highest butyrate productivity in the free-cell fermentation was only 0.27 g/L-h. So far, the highest concentration of butyric acid obtained in fermentation was 62.8 g/L with a yield of 0.45 g/g sucrose by C. tyrobutyricum, but the reactor productivity was only 1.25 g/L-h (25). A much higher reactor productivity of 9.5 g/L-h at a butyrate concentration of 29.7 g/L was achieved for a continuous fermentation system with cell recycle by microfiltration (26). However, using a membrane filter for cell recycle to achieve a high cell density and reactor productivity could be a problem for long-term operation and process scale-up because dead cells would accumulate and foul the membrane, reducing system performance with time. The FBB used in this study gave good long-term performance without suffering from any fouling or other operational problems. The FBB also can be used to convert com fiber hydrolysate and com steep liquor, the byproducts from the corn-milling industry, to butyrate at a significantly lower cost (27). It is noted that there was a high density of cells (-70 g/L) immobilized in the fibrous matrix, which attributed to the higher fermentation rate, but the immobilized cells probably did not grow as much as the free cells suspended in the medium, indicated by the lower OD. Therefore, more substrates were converted to final products in the immobilized-cell fermentation. These results clearly indicate that the adapted culture immobilized in the FBB acquired an ability to produce a higher butyrate concentration that could not be achieved by the original wild-type culture grown in suspension.

Butyrate Tolerance of Mutants

Butyric acid is inhibitory to cell growth. To determine if there were any phenotypic changes about butyrate tolerance in mutant strains, cells were grown as suspension cultures at various initial butyrate concentrations (0-15 g/L). The specific growth rates were measured and shown as the relative growth rate compared to those obtained without added butyrate in the medium.

As shown in Figure 3, ack and pta deleted mutants had higher butyrate tolerance than the wild-type. At 15 g/L of butyric acid, both mutants retained ~ 30% of their maximum growth rates but less than 10% in the wild-type. The enhanced butyrate tolerance in these mutants might have contributed to their higher butyrate productivity and final butyrate concentration obtained in the fermentation. It should be noted that PTA in C. tyrobutyricum was more strongly inhibited by butyric acid than PTB (data not shown). It is thus possible that by disrupting the butyrate-sensitive PTA and acetate-forming pathway, the mutants became less sensitive to butyrate inhibition since they only used the butyrate-forming pathway to generate ATP needed for biosynthesis and maintaining a functional pH gradient across the cell membrane.

For the overexpression mutant WT(pTHBUT), it was more sensitive to butyrate inhibition than the wild-type. Less than 9% of the maximum growth rate was retained when butyrate was only 5 g/L and no cell growth was observed in the medium when butyrate was higher than 15 g/L. This result explains the fact observed in the fed-batch fermentation that this mutant stopped butyrate production very early when butyrate concentration only reached -12 g/L. This overexpressed butyrate operon originated from the solventogenic C. acetobutylicum. It was reported that butyrate was more toxic than butanol (28), and even butyrate-producing enzyme PTB was inhibited by butyric acid in C. tyrobutyricum. Since C. acetobutylicum was able to shift from acidogenesis to solventogenesis and reassimilate butyrate under appropriate conditions to alleviate the butyrate inhibitory effects (29), it is suggested that the enzymes involved in butyrate production from this bacterium may be less tolerant to

Free cells X-

Free cells X-

Fed Batch Fermentation
Figure 2. Fed-batch fermentation of xylose by C. tyrobutyricum at 37°C. (A) free cells; (B) immobilized cells in the fibrous-bed bioreactor.

Butyrate concentration (g/L)

Figure 3. Inhibition effects of butyric acid on cell growth of wild-type and various mutant strains.



Butyrate concentration (g/L)

Figure 3. Inhibition effects of butyric acid on cell growth of wild-type and various mutant strains.

butyrate than those native ones from C. tyrobutyricum. Therefore, the exogenous butyrate operon on pTHBUT might be responsible for the reduced butyrate tolerance in WT(pTHBUT). Another reason for the reduced butyrate tolerance in WT(pTHBUT) might be the host-plasmid interactions (14). It was reported that the plasmid-bearing strains of C. acetobutylicum had slower growth rate, elevated solvent levels and lowered acid levels, possibly due to the induction of stress proteins in response to plasmid-imposed metabolic stress (14, 23). A similar stress response might have also occurred in WT(pTHBUT) and resulted in the decreased butyrate tolerance of cells.

It is also noticed that the adapted culture from the FBB was much less sensitive to butyrate concentration increase as compared with the wild-type culture, indicating a much higher tolerance to butyrate (Figure 3). This explains the higher butyrate concentration level obtained in the immobilized cell fermentation (Figure 2). The adapted cells retained more than 50% of its growth ability when the butyrate concentration increased to 30 g/L, whereas the original culture had lost its ability to grow at a butyrate concentration beyond 20 g/L (data not shown). Therefore, the ability to produce higher butyrate concentrations in the FBB can be attributed to the emergence of butyrate-tolerant mutant in the bioreactor through adaptation and natural selection, which did not happen in the suspension culture. Clearly, cells grown in fibrous matrices are more robust and have acquired the ability to tolerate higher butyrate concentrations. The adapted culture obtained should have a good potential in industrial butyrate production. It is expected that, by immobilization of genetically engineered mutants in the fibrous bed, their butyrate tolerance and production ability will be further improved and it will ultimately improve the process economics.

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