A new thrust to prepare feed SCP from Pichia grown on coal-derived methanol



Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, led by Wu Xin, recently announced a commercially viable approach to biosynthesize protein that can be used in making animal feed.

Research on synthesizing cellular protein from methanol began in the 1980s, but due to high costs, methanol-synthesized protein products could not compete with soy protein and have not been produced on a large scale.

The yeast strain Pichia pastoris, used in this process, grows by using methanol. Wu’s team collected over 20,000 yeast samples from vineyards, forests and marshlands across China. From those samples, they identified strains capable of efficiently using various sugars and alcohols as carbon sources. And by knocking out specific genes in a wild Pichia pastoris strain, they engineered a yeast with significantly enhanced methanol tolerance and metabolic efficiency.

This engineering raised the conversion rate of methanol to protein to 92 percent, making this protein production method attractive economically. The protein content in the microorganisms ranges from 40 to 85 percent, significantly higher than in natural plants. These organisms also contain a complete amino acid profile, vitamins, inorganic salts, fats and carbohydrates, allowing them to partially replace fishmeal, soybeans, meat and skimmed milk powder in various applications.

China currently imports around 100 million metric tons of soybeans annually, mostly from Brazil and the United States. Despite a national drive to ramp up domestic production in recent years due to vulnerable global supply chains, the country currently produces just around one-fifth of its needs. In a major move to bolster domestic production, the Chinese government last year expanded the commercial use of genetic modification technologies to staple food crops including soybeans. Such technologies have long been restricted to cotton and papaya in the nation.

A new thrust to prepare feed SCP from Pichia grown on coal-derived methanol
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