Microb Biotechnol. 2023 Jan 11. doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.14212. Online ahead of print.
Carboxydotrophic metabolism is gaining interest due to its applications in gas fermentation technology, enabling the conversion of carbon monoxide to fuels and commodities. Acetogenic carboxydotrophs play a central role in current gas fermentation processes. In contrast to other energy-rich microbial substrates, CO is highly toxic, which makes it a challenging substrate to utilize. Instantaneous scavenging of CO upon entering the cell is required to mitigate its toxicity. Experiments conducted with Clostridium autoethanogenum at different biomass-specific growth rates show that elevated ethanol production occurs at increasing growth rates. The increased allocation of electrons towards ethanol at higher growth rates strongly suggests that C. autoethanogenum employs a form of overflow metabolism to cope with high dissolved CO concentrations. We argue that this overflow branch enables acetogens to efficiently use CO at highly variable substrate influxes by increasing the conversion rate almost instantaneously when required to remove toxic substrate and promote growth. In this perspective, we will address the case study of C. autoethanogenum grown solely on CO and syngas mixtures to assess how it employs acetate reduction to ethanol as a form of overflow metabolism.