Jeroen Maertens

Postdoc

Jeroen Maertens joined the Division of Industrial Biotechnology in May 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher. His research project involves membrane engineering of yeast in order to obtain more robust strains to be used by the bio-based industry.
Chemicals and fuels obtained from the bioconversion of lignocellulosic material have the potential to provide a sustainable alternative to materials derived from crude oil. Acetic acid is released from the biomass during pre-treatment and hydrolysis, which are necessary steps prior to fermentation. Therefore, lignocellulose based fermentation media can contain relatively high amounts of this weak acid. Weak organic acids such as acetic acid enter the cell mainly by passive diffusion through the cell membrane and can heavily affect cell physiology. Furthermore, acetic acid released from the biomass reduces the efficiency of fermentation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Researchers therefore attempt to increase the tolerance of S. cerevisiae to weak organic acids. Generally speaking, this can be achieved three ways: decrease intake, increase efflux or metabolize the weak organic acids. Jeroen´s research aims to modify the cell membrane properties of S. cerevisiae to reduce passive diffusion of these molecules. More specifically, he attempts to increase the mean length of fatty acids incorporated into glycerophospholipid moiety of the yeast cell membrane. This results in increased membrane thickness and rigidity which will in turn reduce passive diffusion.

Published: Tue 12 Dec 2017.