Xylose utilization is essential for the efficient conversion of lignocellulosic materials to fuels and chemicals. A few yeasts are known to ferment xylose directly to ethanol. However, the rates and yields need to be improved for commercialization. Xylose utilization is repressed by glucose which is usually present in lignocellulosic hydrolysates, so glucose regulation should be altered in order to maximize xylose conversion. Xylose utilization also requires low amounts of oxygen for optimal production. Respiration can reduce ethanol yields, so the role of oxygen must be better understood and respiration must be reduced in order to improve ethanol production. This paper reviews the central pathways for glucose and xylose metabolism, the principal respiratory pathways, the factors determining partitioning of pyruvate between respiration and fermentation, the known genetic mechanisms for glucose and oxygen regulation, and progress to date in improving xylose fermentations by yeasts.
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