Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Jeff R. Broadbent


We explored using de-oiled algal biomass (algal cake) as a low-value substrate for production of lactic acid in fermentations with Lactobacillus casei, and strategies for increasing lactic acid production at low pH. L. casei 12A algal cake (AC) fermentations showed carbohydrate and amino acid availability limit growth and lactic acid production. These nutritional requirements were effectively addressed with enzymatic hydrolysis of the AC using α-amylase, cellulase, and pepsin. Producing 0.075 g lactic acid per g AC from AC digested with all three enzymes. We explored heterologous expression of the cellulase gene (celE) from Clostridium thermocellum and the α-amylase gene (amyA) from Streptococcus bovis in L. casei 12A. Functional activity of CelE was not detected, but low-level activity of AmyA was achieved, and increased > 1.5-fold using a previously designed synthetic promoter. Nonetheless, the improvement was insufficient to significantly increase lactic acid production. Thus, substantial optimization of amyA and celE expression in L. casei 12A would be needed to achieve activities needed to increase lactic acid production from AC.

We explored transient inactivation of MutS as a method for inducing hypermutability and increasing adaptability of L. casei 12A and ATCC 334 to lactic acid at low pH. The wild type cells and their ΔmutS derivatives were subject to a 100-day adaptive evolution experiment, followed by repair of the ΔmutS lesion in representative isolates. Growth studies at pH 4.0 revealed that all four adapted strains grew more rapidly, to higher cell densities, and produced significantly more lactic acid than untreated wild-type cells. The greatest increases were observed from the adapted ΔmutS derivatives. Further examination of the 12A adapted ΔmutS derivative identified morphological changes, and increased survival at pH 2.5. Genome sequence analysis confirmed transient MutS inactivation decreased DNA replication fidelity, and identified potential genotypic changes in 12A that might contribute to increased acid lactic acid resistance. Targeted inactivation of three genes identified in the adapted 12A ΔmutS derivative revealed that a NADH dehydrogenase (ndh), phosphate transport ATP-binding protein PstB (pstB), and two-component signal transduction system (TCS) quorum-sensing histidine kinase (hpk) contribute to increased acid resistance in 12A.