Dr. Carl Creutz (Professor of Pharmacology) has just published an interesting study that has the potential to help combat pollution and maybe even global warming (Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 9; 9(1):18603). Fermentation is the major mechanism of alcohol biofuel production in the United States and ethanol is the most common fuel produced. The branched chain alcohol isobutanol has a higher energy density than ethanol and is a more efficient substitute in gasoline blends. However, isobutanol is much more toxic to yeast than ethanol, and this toxicity is a limiting factor in its production by fermentation.
Dr. Creutz is a world expert in the function of annexins, a class of calcium-dependent membrane-binding proteins. His recent paper describes how expression of these proteins in yeast provides protection from otherwise lethal concentrations of isobutanol. The implications of this study is that bioengineering yeast to include expression of annexins could allow for enhanced fermentation efficiency of isobutanol. This in turn could lower the overall cost of biofuel production, and perhaps, eventually reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.