So this is actually old-ish news, but I saw this press release about paper published last year describing the ability of the fungus Gliocladium roseum to naturally synthesizes diesel compounds. The paper from Gary Strobel @Montana State and collaborators describes that G. roseum produces volatile hydrocarbon on cellulose media. Extracts from the host plant (Eucryphia cordifolia) were also able to support growth of the fungus alone. This production of products have been dubbed “myco-diesel”. G. roseum is an endophyte of E. cordifolia I wonder what kinds of advantages it might provide for the fungus or the plant to produce these hydrocarbons.
I wonder if it is better to focus on these organisms that have already evolved a way to make these hydrocarbons directly from cellulose rather than the multistep process of making easy to process sugars from different starting plant materials and then ethanol or other hydrocarbons from yeast or bacteria growing on that sugar. Growth rates, amenability to grow in bioreactors, etc certainly are considerations in building production systems, but I wonder whether these kind of finding represent inroads to solving our problems or if they are peripheral to the current bioengineering approaches that are underway.
Some of the earlier press releases I had missed it seems:
G. A. Strobel, B. Knighton, K. Kluck, Y. Ren, T. Livinghouse, M. Griffin, D. Spakowicz, J. Sears (2008). The production of myco-diesel hydrocarbons and their derivatives by the endophytic fungus Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50072) Microbiology, 154 (11), 3319-3328 DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.2008/022186-0