By monitoring the real-time gas production (CO2
) and redox potential at high sampling frequency in continuous culture of Clostridium pasteurianum
on glycerol as sole carbohydrate, the self-synchronized oscillatory metabolism was revealed and studied. The oscillations in CO2
production were in sync with each other and with both redox potential and glycerol in the continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR). There is strong evidence that the mechanism for this is in the regulation of the oxidative pathway of glycerol metabolism, including glycolysis, and points toward complex, concerted cycles of enzyme inhibition and activation by pathway intermediates and/or redox equivalents. The importance of understanding such an “oscillatory metabolism” is for developing a stable and highly productive industrial fermentation process for butanol production, as unstable oscillations are unproductive. It is shown that the oscillatory metabolism can be eradicated and reinstated and that the period of oscillations can be altered by modification of the operating parameters. Synchronized oscillatory metabolism impacted the product profile such that it lowered the selectivity for butanol and increased the selectivity for ethanol. This elucidates a possible cause for the variability in the product profile of C. pasteurianum
that has been reported in many previous studies.
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