The Effects of Model Aromatic Lignin Compounds On Growth and Lipid Accumulation of Rhodococcus rhodochrous

Sara A. Shields-Menard, Nicholls University
Marta AmirSadeghi, California State Polytechnic University
Magan Green, Mississippi State University
Erika Womack, USDA-ARS
Darrell L. Sparks, Mississippi State University
Jacqui Blake, Mississippi State University
Mariola Edelmann, University of Florida
Xuan Ding, Mississippi State University
Badamkhand Sukhbaatar, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Rafael Hernandez, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Janet R. Donaldson, University of Southern Mississippi
Todd French, Mississippi State University


Lignocellulosic biomass is one of the most abundant and renewable organic materials in the world. The lignocellulosic complex is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, which can be pretreated to release sugars that can be utilized for microbial production of valued metabolites. Oleaginous microbes can accumulate over 20% of their cell dry weight as lipids, which are stored as intracellular energy reserves. The characterization of oleaginous bacteria creates opportunities for the development of alternative feedstocks and technologies. Rhodococcus rhodochrous is a bacterium recently determined to be oleaginous when grown in glucose-supplemented media. The purpose of this study was to evaluate model lignin phenolic compounds as substrates for lipid accumulation. Lipid accumulation in R. rhodochrous was evaluated using phenol, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (HBA) and vanillic acid (VA) as model lignin compounds with and without glucose as a co-substrate. Cell dry weight increased in all treatments, indicating that growth was not impaired in these conditions. However, alterations were observed in the amount of lipids produced. Dry cell weight and lipids were analyzed daily. R. rhodochrous accumulated over 40% of its cell dry weight as lipids when grown in glucose with HBA and VA, but less than 20% when grown in HBA and VA alone. When grown in phenol and glucose, R. rhodochrous accumulated 35% of its dry weight at lipids, but did not accumulate lipids when grown in phenol alone. These data indicate that R. rhodochrous may have the capability to tolerate and utilize lignin-like aromatic compounds for lipid accumulation.