Production of Triacylglycerides from Renewable Biomass Using Oleaginous Microorganisms

Technology #14880

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
Photograph of xylose-utilizing colonies of R. opacus on xylose-enriched agar platesGraphs depicting lipid production in Rhodococcus opacus bacterial strain MITXM-61 on substrate containing 120 g/L xylose, in a bioreactor, as a function of time. A: fatty acid content as a percent of cell dry weight (CDW). B: residual xylose and (NH4)2SO4 present in the culture supernatants. C: fatty acid production kinetics and CDW.Purification of xylose from corn stover silage. One hundred grams of corn stover silage (30 grams dry basis) was suspended in 500 ml of 1% (w/w) NaOH and heated at 90° C. (A). After 45 minutes (min) of incubation, the material was filtered (B), resuspended in 500 ml of a fresh 1% NaOH solution, and kept at 90° C. for 45 min (C). The slurry was filtered, and the residue was washed three times with 500 ml of water (D).
Kazuhiko Kurosawa
Department of Biology, MIT
Professor Anthony Sinskey
Department of Biology, MIT
External Link (
Managed By
Jon Gilbert
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Production of Triacylglycerides from Renewable Biomass Using Oleaginous Microorganisms

US Patent 9,139,855
High-cell-density batch fermentation of Rhodococcus opacus PD630 using a high glucose concentration for triacylglycerol production
Journal of Biotechnology, June 2010, 147:212-218


The production of triacylglycerides (TAGs) from the fermentation of renewable biomass could serve as a cheap source of biodiesels and other fuels. 

Problem Addressed

As our planet's fossil fuel supply is quickly diminishing, microbially derived biodiesels could play an important role as a renewable energy source. While microbes have already been shown to produce TAGs from the fermentation of refined carbon sources such as gluconate or olive oil, the processes to refine these carbon sources are often labor-intensive and expensive. An invention that includes both a biodiesel-producing microbe and a simple method for a refinement of xylose sugar from renewable crop sources would make microbially derived biodiesels much more economically feasible.


This invention involves the production of TAGs containing 16-18 carbon fatty acid chains from a mutant strain of Rhodococcus opacus PD630. The mutant PD630 strain described in this invention metabolizes xylose in basic growth medium, without the addition of antibiotics such as gentamicin to induce xylose fermentation. By using a particular combination of bacterial titer, agitation speed, oxygen content, glucose concentration, nitrogen concentration, and carbon to nitrogen ratio to grow the mutant PD630 strain, TAG yield can be upwards of 50% of the total bacterial cell dry weight. Any common aerated reaction vessel can be used to grow PD630, and any common means of TAG purification can be used to harvest the TAGs. In addition to the discovery of the mutant strain of PD630, this invention also includes a simple method involving the combination of lignocellulose material derived from corn stover and sorghum silage to manufacture xylose. This method bypasses the need to use fermentation-inhibiting substances such phenols or furans, which would otherwise decrease the TAG yield. 


  • Economically feasible alternative source of renewable energy
  • Cheap, easily implemented method of TAG production from bacteria
  • Simple process to derive xylose sugar from crops 
  • >50% cell dry weight yield of TAGs