The current extraction and use of fossil fuels has been linked to extensive negative health and environmental outcomes. Lignocellulosic biomass-derived biofuels and bioproducts are being actively considered as renewable alternatives to the fuels, chemicals, and materials produced from fossil fuels. A major challenge limiting large-scale, economic deployment of second-generation biorefineries is the insufficient product yield, diversity, and value that current conversion technologies can extract from lignocellulose, in particular from the underutilized lignin fraction. Rhodococcus opacus PD630 is an oleaginous gram-positive bacterium with innate catabolic pathways and tolerance mechanisms for the inhibitory aromatic compounds found in depolymerized lignin, as well as native or engineered pathways for hexose and pentose sugars found in the carbohydrate fractions of biomass. As a result, R. opacus holds potential as a biological chassis for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biodiesel precursors and other value-added products. This review begins by examining the important role that lignin utilization will play in the future of biorefineries and by providing a concise survey of the current lignin conversion technologies. The genetic machinery and capabilities of R. opacus that allow the bacterium to tolerate and metabolize aromatic compounds and depolymerized lignin are also discussed, along with a synopsis of the genetic toolbox and synthetic biology methods now available for engineering this organism. Finally, we summarize the different feedstocks that R. opacus has been demonstrated to consume, and the high-value products that it has been shown to produce. Engineered R. opacus will enable lignin valorization over the coming years, leading to cost-effective conversion of lignocellulose into fuels, chemicals, and materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 5 2019


  • Aromatic compound
  • Biofuel
  • Biological conversion
  • Bioproduct
  • Genetic tool
  • Lignin
  • Lignocellulose
  • Non-model organism
  • Rhodococcus opacus PD630
  • Thermochemical conversion


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