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1.  Efficient Degradation of Lignocellulosic Plant Biomass, without Pretreatment, by the Thermophilic Anaerobe “Anaerocellum thermophilum” DSM 6725▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(14):4762-4769.
Very few cultivated microorganisms can degrade lignocellulosic biomass without chemical pretreatment. We show here that “Anaerocellum thermophilum” DSM 6725, an anaerobic bacterium that grows optimally at 75°C, efficiently utilizes various types of untreated plant biomass, as well as crystalline cellulose and xylan. These include hardwoods such as poplar, low-lignin grasses such as napier and Bermuda grasses, and high-lignin grasses such as switchgrass. The organism did not utilize only the soluble fraction of the untreated biomass, since insoluble plant biomass (as well as cellulose and xylan) obtained after washing at 75°C for 18 h also served as a growth substrate. The predominant end products from all growth substrates were hydrogen, acetate, and lactate. Glucose and cellobiose (on crystalline cellulose) and xylose and xylobiose (on xylan) also accumulated in the growth media during growth on the defined substrates but not during growth on the plant biomass. A. thermophilum DSM 6725 grew well on first- and second-spent biomass derived from poplar and switchgrass, where spent biomass is defined as the insoluble growth substrate recovered after the organism has reached late stationary phase. No evidence was found for the direct attachment of A. thermophilum DSM 6725 to the plant biomass. This organism differs from the closely related strain A. thermophilum Z-1320 in its ability to grow on xylose and pectin. Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus DSM 8903 (optimum growth temperature, 70°C), a close relative of A. thermophilum DSM 6725, grew well on switchgrass but not on poplar, indicating a significant difference in the biomass-degrading abilities of these two otherwise very similar organisms.
PMCID: PMC2708433  PMID: 19465524
2.  Proteome-wide systems analysis of a cellulosic biofuel-producing microbe 
We apply mass spectrometry-based ReDi proteomics to quantify the Clostridium phytofermentans proteome during fermentation of cellulosic substrates. ReDi proteomics gives accurate, low-cost quantification of an extra and intracellular microbial proteome. When combined with physiological measurements, these methods form a general systems biology strategy to evaluate the efficiency of cellulosic bioconversion and to identify enzyme targets to engineer for improving this process.C. phytofermentans expressed more than 100 carbohydrate-active enzymes, of which distinct subsets were upregulated on cellulose and hemicellulose. Numerous extracellular enzymes cleave insoluble plant polysaccharides into oligosaccharides, which are transported into the cell to be further degraded by intracellular carbohydratases. Sugars are catabolized by EMP glycolysis incorporating alternative glycolytic enzymes to maximize the ATP yield of anaerobic metabolism.During cellulosic fermentation, cells adhered to the substrate and altered metabolic processes such as upregulation of tryptophan and nicotinamide synthesis proteins and repression of proteins for fatty acid metabolism and cell motility. These diverse metabolic changes highlight how a systems approach can identify novel ways to optimize cellulosic fermentation.
Cellulose is the world's most abundant renewable, biological energy source (Leschine, 1995). Microbial fermentation of cellulosic biomass could sustainably provide enough ethanol for 65% of US ground transportation fuel at current levels (Somerville, 2006). However, cellulose in plant biomass is packaged into a crystalline matrix, making biomass deconstruction a key roadblock to using it as a feedstock (Houghton et al, 2006). A promising strategy to overcome biomass recalcitrance is consolidated bioprocessing (Lynd et al, 2002), which uses microbes such as Clostridium phytofermentans to both secrete enzymes to depolymerize biomass and then ferment the resulting hexose and pentose sugars to a biofuel such as ethanol. The C. phytofermentans genome encodes 161 carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZy) including 108 glycoside hydrolases spread across 39 families (Cantarel et al, 2009), highlighting the elaborate set of enzymes needed to breakdown different cellulosic polysaccharides. Faced with the complexity of metabolizing biomass, systems biology strategies are needed to comprehensively identify which cellulolytic and metabolic enzymes are used to ferment different cellulosic substrates.
This study presents a systems-level analysis of how C. phytofermentans ferments different cellulosic substrates that incorporates quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics of over 2500 proteins. Protein concentrations within each carbon source treatment were calculated by machine learning-supported spectral counting (Absolute Protein EXpression, APEX) (Lu et al, 2007). Protein levels on hemicellulose and cellulose relative to glucose were determined using reductive methylation (Hsu et al, 2003; Boersema et al, 2009), here called ReDi labeling, to chemically incorporate hydrogen or deuterium isotopes at lysines and N-terminal amines of tryptic peptides. We show that ReDi proteomics gives accurate, low-cost quantification of a microbial proteome and can be used to discern extracellular proteins. Further, we combine these quantitative proteomics with detailed measurements of growth, biomass consumption, fermentation product analyses, and electron microscopy. Together, these methods form a general strategy to evaluate the efficiency of cellulosic bioconversion and to identify enzyme targets to engineer for improving this process (Figure 1).
We found that fermentation of cellulosic substrates by C. phytofermentans involves secretion of numerous CAZy as well as proteins for binding of extracellular solutes, proteolysis, and motility. The most highly expressed protein in the proteome is a secreted protein that appears to compose a surface layer to support the cell and anchor cell surface proteins, including some enzymes for plant degradation. Once the secreted CAZy cleave insoluble plant polysaccharides into oligosaccharides, they are taken into the cell to be further degraded by intracellular CAZy, enabling more efficient sugar transport, conserving energy by phosphorolytic cleavage, and ensuring the sugar monomers were not available to competing microbes. Sugars are catabolized by EMP glycolysis incorporating reversible, PPi-dependent glycolytic enzymes, and pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase. The genome encodes seven alcohol dehydrogenases, among which two iron-dependent enzymes are highly expressed and likely facilitate the high ethanol yields. Growth on cellulose also resulted in indirect changes such as increased tryptophan and nicotinamide synthesis and repression of fatty acid synthesis. We distilled the data into a model showing the highly expressed enzymes enabling efficient cellulosic fermentation by C. phytofermentans (Figure 7). Collectively, these data help understand how bacteria recycle plant biomass works towards enabling the use of plant biomass as a low-cost chemical feedstock.
Fermentation of plant biomass by microbes like Clostridium phytofermentans recycles carbon globally and can make biofuels from inedible feedstocks. We analyzed C. phytofermentans fermenting cellulosic substrates by integrating quantitative mass spectrometry of more than 2500 proteins with measurements of growth, enzyme activities, fermentation products, and electron microscopy. Absolute protein concentrations were estimated using Absolute Protein EXpression (APEX); relative changes between treatments were quantified with chemical stable isotope labeling by reductive dimethylation (ReDi). We identified the different combinations of carbohydratases used to degrade cellulose and hemicellulose, many of which were secreted based on quantification of supernatant proteins, as well as the repertoires of glycolytic enzymes and alcohol dehydrogenases (ADHs) enabling ethanol production at near maximal yields. Growth on cellulose also resulted in diverse changes such as increased expression of tryptophan synthesis proteins and repression of proteins for fatty acid metabolism and cell motility. This study gives a systems-level understanding of how this microbe ferments biomass and provides a rational, empirical basis to identify engineering targets for industrial cellulosic fermentation.
PMCID: PMC3049413  PMID: 21245846
bioenergy; clostridium; proteomics
3.  Phylogenetic, Microbiological, and Glycoside Hydrolase Diversities within the Extremely Thermophilic, Plant Biomass-Degrading Genus Caldicellulosiruptor▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(24):8084-8092.
Phylogenetic, microbiological, and comparative genomic analyses were used to examine the diversity among members of the genus Caldicellulosiruptor, with an eye toward the capacity of these extremely thermophilic bacteria to degrade the complex carbohydrate content of plant biomass. Seven species from this genus (C. saccharolyticus, C. bescii, C. hydrothermalis, C. owensensis, C. kronotskyensis, C. lactoaceticus, and C. kristjanssonii) were compared on the basis of 16S rRNA gene phylogeny and cross-species DNA-DNA hybridization to a whole-genome C. saccharolyticus oligonucleotide microarray, revealing that C. saccharolyticus was the most divergent within this group. Growth physiology of the seven Caldicellulosiruptor species on a range of carbohydrates showed that, while all could be cultivated on acid-pretreated switchgrass, only C. saccharolyticus, C. bescii, C. kronotskyensis, and C. lactoaceticus were capable of hydrolyzing Whatman no. 1 filter paper. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of the secretomes from cells grown on microcrystalline cellulose revealed that the cellulolytic species also had diverse secretome fingerprints. The C. saccharolyticus secretome contained a prominent S-layer protein that appears in the cellulolytic Caldicellulosiruptor species, suggesting a possible role in cell-substrate interactions. Growth physiology also correlated with glycoside hydrolase (GH) and carbohydrate-binding module (CBM) inventories for the seven bacteria, as deduced from draft genome sequence information. These inventories indicated that the absence of a single GH and CBM family was responsible for diminished cellulolytic capacity. Overall, the genus Caldicellulosiruptor appears to contain more genomic and physiological diversity than previously reported, and this argues for continued efforts to isolate new members from high-temperature terrestrial biotopes.
PMCID: PMC3008241  PMID: 20971878
4.  Reconstitution of a Thermostable Xylan-Degrading Enzyme Mixture from the Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii 
Xylose, the major constituent of xylans, as well as the side chain sugars, such as arabinose, can be metabolized by engineered yeasts into ethanol. Therefore, xylan-degrading enzymes that efficiently hydrolyze xylans will add value to cellulases used in hydrolysis of plant cell wall polysaccharides for conversion to biofuels. Heterogeneous xylan is a complex substrate, and it requires multiple enzymes to release its constituent sugars. However, the components of xylan-degrading enzymes are often individually characterized, leading to a dearth of research that analyzes synergistic actions of the components of xylan-degrading enzymes. In the present report, six genes predicted to encode components of the xylan-degrading enzymes of the thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii were expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant proteins were investigated as individual enzymes and also as a xylan-degrading enzyme cocktail. Most of the component enzymes of the xylan-degrading enzyme mixture had similar optimal pH (5.5 to ∼6.5) and temperature (75 to ∼90°C), and this facilitated their investigation as an enzyme cocktail for deconstruction of xylans. The core enzymes (two endoxylanases and a β-xylosidase) exhibited high turnover numbers during catalysis, with the two endoxylanases yielding estimated kcat values of ∼8,000 and ∼4,500 s−1, respectively, on soluble wheat arabinoxylan. Addition of side chain-cleaving enzymes to the core enzymes increased depolymerization of a more complex model substrate, oat spelt xylan. The C. bescii xylan-degrading enzyme mixture effectively hydrolyzes xylan at 65 to 80°C and can serve as a basal mixture for deconstruction of xylans in bioenergy feedstock at high temperatures.
PMCID: PMC3591937  PMID: 23263957
5.  Genome Sequence of the Anaerobic, Thermophilic, and Cellulolytic Bacterium “Anaerocellum thermophilum” DSM 6725▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(11):3760-3761.
“Anaerocellum thermophilum” DSM 6725 is a strictly anaerobic bacterium that grows optimally at 75°C. It uses a variety of polysaccharides, including crystalline cellulose and untreated plant biomass, and has potential utility in biomass conversion. Here we report its complete genome sequence of 2.97 Mb, which is contained within one chromosome and two plasmids (of 8.3 and 3.6 kb). The genome encodes a broad set of cellulolytic enzymes, transporters, and pathways for sugar utilization and compared to those of other saccharolytic, anaerobic thermophiles is most similar to that of Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus DSM 8903.
PMCID: PMC2681903  PMID: 19346307
6.  Single-step ethanol production from lignocellulose using novel extremely thermophilic bacteria 
Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) of lignocellulosic biomass to ethanol using thermophilic bacteria provides a promising solution for efficient lignocellulose conversion without the need for additional cellulolytic enzymes. Most studies on the thermophilic CBP concentrate on co-cultivation of the thermophilic cellulolytic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum with non-cellulolytic thermophilic anaerobes at temperatures of 55°C-60°C.
We have specifically screened for cellulolytic bacteria growing at temperatures >70°C to enable direct conversion of lignocellulosic materials into ethanol. Seven new strains of extremely thermophilic anaerobic cellulolytic bacteria of the genus Caldicellulosiruptor and eight new strains of extremely thermophilic xylanolytic/saccharolytic bacteria of the genus Thermoanaerobacter isolated from environmental samples exhibited fast growth at 72°C, extensive lignocellulose degradation and high yield ethanol production on cellulose and pretreated lignocellulosic biomass. Monocultures of Caldicellulosiruptor strains degraded up to 89-97% of the cellulose and hemicellulose polymers in pretreated biomass and produced up to 72 mM ethanol on cellulose without addition of exogenous enzymes. In dual co-cultures of Caldicellulosiruptor strains with Thermoanaerobacter strains the ethanol concentrations rose 2- to 8.2-fold compared to cellulolytic monocultures. A co-culture of Caldicellulosiruptor DIB 087C and Thermoanaerobacter DIB 097X was particularly effective in the conversion of cellulose to ethanol, ethanol comprising 34.8 mol% of the total organic products. In contrast, a co-culture of Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus DSM 8903 and Thermoanaerobacter mathranii subsp. mathranii DSM 11426 produced only low amounts of ethanol.
The newly discovered Caldicellulosiruptor sp. strain DIB 004C was capable of producing unexpectedly large amounts of ethanol from lignocellulose in fermentors. The established co-cultures of new Caldicellulosiruptor strains with new Thermoanaerobacter strains underline the importance of using specific strain combinations for high ethanol yields. These co-cultures provide an efficient CBP pathway for ethanol production and represent an ideal starting point for development of a highly integrated commercial ethanol production process.
PMCID: PMC3598825  PMID: 23448304
Anaerobic; Caldicellulosiruptor; Consolidated bioprocessing; Ethanol; Extremely thermophilic bacteria; High temperature; Lactate; Lignocellulose; Thermoanaerobacter
7.  Molecular and Biochemical Analyses of the GH44 Module of CbMan5B/Cel44A, a Bifunctional Enzyme from the Hyperthermophilic Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(19):7048-7059.
A large polypeptide encoded in the genome of the thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii was determined to consist of two glycoside hydrolase (GH) modules separated by two carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs). Based on the detection of mannanase and endoglucanase activities in the N-terminal GH5 and the C-terminal GH44 module, respectively, the protein was designated CbMan5B/Cel44A. A GH5 module with >99% identity from the same organism was characterized previously (X. Su, R. I. Mackie, and I. K. Cann, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:2230-2240, 2012); therefore, attention was focused on CbMan5A/Cel44A-TM2 (or TM2), which harbors the GH44 module and the two CBMs. On cellulosic substrates, TM2 had an optimal temperature and pH of 85°C and 5.0, respectively. Although the amino acid sequence of the GH44 module of TM2 was similar to those of other GH44 modules that hydrolyzed cello-oligosaccharides, cellulose, lichenan, and xyloglucan, it was unique that TM2 also displayed modest activity on mannose-configured substrates and xylan. The TM2 protein also degraded Avicel with higher specific activity than activities reported for its homologs. The GH44 catalytic module is composed of a TIM-like domain and a β-sandwich domain, which consists of one β-sheet at the N terminus and nine β-sheets at the C terminus. Deletion of one or more β-sheets from the β-sandwich domain resulted in insoluble proteins, suggesting that the β-sandwich domain is essential for proper folding of the polypeptide. Combining TM2 with three other endoglucanases from C. bescii led to modest synergistic activities during degradation of cellulose, and based on our results, we propose a model for cellulose hydrolysis and utilization by C. bescii.
PMCID: PMC3457505  PMID: 22843537
8.  Identification and characterization of CbeI, a novel thermostable restriction enzyme from Caldicellulosiruptor bescii DSM 6725 and a member of a new subfamily of HaeIII-like enzymes 
Potent HaeIII-like DNA restriction activity was detected in cell-free extracts of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii DSM 6725 using plasmid DNA isolated from Escherichia coli as substrate. Incubation of the plasmid DNA in vitro with HaeIII methyltransferase protected it from cleavage by HaeIII nuclease as well as cell-free extracts of C. bescii. The gene encoding the putative restriction enzyme was cloned and expressed in E. coli with a His-tag at the C-terminus. The purified protein was 38 kDa as predicted by the 981-bp nucleic acid sequence, was optimally active at temperatures between 75°C and 85°C, and was stable for more than 1 week when stored at 35°C. The cleavage sequence was determined to be 5′-GG/CC-3′, indicating that CbeI is an isoschizomer of HaeIII. A search of the C. bescii genome sequence revealed the presence of both a HaeIII-like restriction endonuclease (Athe 2438) and DNA methyltransferase (Athe 2437). Preliminary analysis of other Caldicellulosiruptor species suggested that this restriction/modification activity is widespread in this genus. A phylogenetic analysis based on sequence alignment and conserved motif searches identified features of CbeI distinct from other members of this group and classified CbeI as a member of a novel subfamily of HaeIII-like enzymes.
PMCID: PMC4269323  PMID: 21604181
Caldicellulosiruptor; Cellulolytic; Thermophile; Anaerobe; HaeIII; Restriction-modification system; Thermostable restriction enzyme
9.  Deletion of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CelA reveals its crucial role in the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass 
Biotechnology for Biofuels  2014;7(1):142.
Members of the bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor are the most thermophilic cellulolytic organisms described to date, and have the ability to grow on lignocellulosic biomass without conventional pretreatment. Different species vary in their abilities to degrade cellulose, and the presence of CelA, a bifunctional glycoside hydrolase that contains a Family 48 and a Family 9 catalytic domain, correlates well with cellulolytic ability in members of this genus. For example, C. hydrothermalis, which does not contain a CelA homolog, or a GH48 Family or GH9 Family glycoside hydrolase, is the least cellulolytic of the Caldicellulosiruptor species so far described. C. bescii, which contains CelA and expresses it constitutively, is among the most cellulolytic. In fact, CelA is the most abundant extracellular protein produced in C. bescii. The enzyme contains two catalytic units, a Family 9A-CBM3c processive endoglucanase and a Family 48 exoglucanase, joined by two Family 3b carbohydrate-binding domains. Although there are two non-reducing end-specific Family 9 and three reducing end-specific Family 48 glycoside hydrolases (producing primarily glucose and cellobiose; and cellobiose and cellotriose, respectively) in C. bescii, CelA is the only protein that combines both enzymatic activities.
A deletion of the celA gene resulted in a dramatic reduction in the microorganism’s ability to grow on crystalline cellulose (Avicel) and diminished growth on lignocellulosic biomass. A comparison of the overall endoglucanase and exoglucanase activities of the mutant compared with the wild-type suggests that the loss of the endoglucanase activity provided by the GH9 family domain is perhaps compensated for by other enzymes produced by the cell. In contrast, it appears that no other enzymes in the C. bescii secretome can compensate for the loss of exoglucanase activity. The change in enzymatic activity in the celA mutant resulted in a 15-fold decrease in sugar release on Avicel compared with the parent and wild-type strains.
The exoglucanase activity of the GH48 domain of CelA plays a major role in biomass degradation within the suite of C. bescii biomass-degrading enzymes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13068-014-0142-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4195899  PMID: 25317205
Bioenergy; Cellulase; Thermophile
10.  Molecular and Biochemical Analyses of CbCel9A/Cel48A, a Highly Secreted Multi-Modular Cellulase by Caldicellulosiruptor bescii during Growth on Crystalline Cellulose 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84172.
During growth on crystalline cellulose, the thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii secretes several cellulose-degrading enzymes. Among these enzymes is CelA (CbCel9A/Cel48A), which is reported as the most highly secreted cellulolytic enzyme in this bacterium. CbCel9A/Cel48A is a large multi-modular polypeptide, composed of an N-terminal catalytic glycoside hydrolase family 9 (GH9) module and a C-terminal GH48 catalytic module that are separated by a family 3c carbohydrate-binding module (CBM3c) and two identical CBM3bs. The wild-type CbCel9A/Cel48A and its truncational mutants were expressed in Bacillus megaterium and Escherichia coli, respectively. The wild-type polypeptide released twice the amount of glucose equivalents from Avicel than its truncational mutant that lacks the GH48 catalytic module. The truncational mutant harboring the GH9 module and the CBM3c was more thermostable than the wild-type protein, likely due to its compact structure. The main hydrolytic activity was present in the GH9 catalytic module, while the truncational mutant containing the GH48 module and the three CBMs was ineffective in degradation of either crystalline or amorphous cellulose. Interestingly, the GH9 and/or GH48 catalytic modules containing the CBM3bs form low-density particles during hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose. Moreover, TM3 (GH9/CBM3c) and TM2 (GH48 with three CBM3 modules) synergistically hydrolyze crystalline cellulose. Deletion of the CBM3bs or mutations that compromised their binding activity suggested that these CBMs are important during hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose. In agreement with this observation, seven of nine genes in a C. bescii gene cluster predicted to encode cellulose-degrading enzymes harbor CBM3bs. Based on our results, we hypothesize that C. bescii uses the GH48 module and the CBM3bs in CbCel9A/Cel48A to destabilize certain regions of crystalline cellulose for attack by the highly active GH9 module and other endoglucanases produced by this hyperthermophilic bacterium.
PMCID: PMC3865294  PMID: 24358340
11.  Complete Genome Sequences for the Anaerobic, Extremely Thermophilic Plant Biomass-Degrading Bacteria Caldicellulosiruptor hydrothermalis, Caldicellulosiruptor kristjanssonii, Caldicellulosiruptor kronotskyensis, Caldicellulosiruptor owensensis, and Caldicellulosiruptor lactoaceticus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(6):1483-1484.
The genus Caldicellulosiruptor contains the most thermophilic, plant biomass-degrading bacteria isolated to date. Previously, genome sequences from three cellulolytic members of this genus were reported (C. saccharolyticus, C. bescii, and C. obsidiansis). To further explore the physiological and biochemical basis for polysaccharide degradation within this genus, five additional genomes were sequenced: C. hydrothermalis, C. kristjanssonii, C. kronotskyensis, C. lactoaceticus, and C. owensensis. Taken together, the seven completed and one draft-phase Caldicellulosiruptor genomes suggest that, while central metabolism is highly conserved, significant differences in glycoside hydrolase inventories and numbers of carbohydrate transporters exist, a finding which likely relates to variability observed in plant biomass degradation capacity.
PMCID: PMC3067630  PMID: 21216991
12.  Overcoming restriction as a barrier to DNA transformation in Caldicellulosiruptor species results in efficient marker replacement 
Thermophilic microorganisms have special advantages for the conversion of plant biomass to fuels and chemicals. Members of the genus Caldicellulosiruptor are the most thermophilic cellulolytic bacteria known. They have the ability to grow on a variety of non-pretreated biomass substrates at or near ~80°C and hold promise for converting biomass to bioproducts in a single step. As for all such relatively uncharacterized organisms with desirable traits, the ability to genetically manipulate them is a prerequisite for making them useful. Metabolic engineering of pathways for product synthesis is relatively simple compared to engineering the ability to utilize non-pretreated biomass.
Here we report the construction of a deletion of cbeI (Cbes2438), which encodes a restriction endonuclease that is as a major barrier to DNA transformation of C. bescii. This is the first example of a targeted chromosomal deletion generated by homologous recombination in this genus and the resulting mutant, JWCB018 (ΔpyrFA ΔcbeI), is readily transformed by DNA isolated from E. coli without in vitro methylation. PCR amplification and sequencing suggested that this deletion left the adjacent methyltransferase (Cbes2437) intact. This was confirmed by the fact that DNA isolated from JWCB018 was protected from digestion by CbeI and HaeIII. Plasmid DNA isolated from C. hydrothermalis transformants were readily transformed into C. bescii. Digestion analysis of chromosomal DNA isolated from seven Caldicellulosiruptor species by using nine different restriction endonucleases was also performed to identify the functional restriction-modification activities in this genus.
Deletion of the cbeI gene removes a substantial barrier to routine DNA transformation and chromosomal modification of C. bescii. This will facilitate the functional analyses of genes as well as metabolic engineering for the production of biofuels and bioproducts from biomass. An analysis of restriction-modification activities in members of this genus suggests a way forward to eliminating restriction as a barrier to DNA transformation and efficient genetic manipulation of this important group of hyperthermophiles.
PMCID: PMC3679861  PMID: 23714229
Caldicellulosiruptor species; Biomass conversion; Restriction-modification enzymes; CbeI; M.CbeI; Targeted deletion
13.  A transcriptomic analysis of Neurospora crassa using five major crop residues and the novel role of the sporulation regulator rca-1 in lignocellulase production 
Crop residue is an abundant, low-cost plant biomass material available worldwide for use in the microbial production of enzymes, biofuels, and valuable chemicals. However, the diverse chemical composition and complex structure of crop residues are more challenging for efficient degradation by microbes than are homogeneous polysaccharides. In this study, the transcriptional responses of Neurospora crassa to various plant straws were analyzed using RNA-Seq, and novel beneficial factors for biomass-induced enzyme production were evaluated.
Comparative transcriptional profiling of N. crassa grown on five major crop straws of China (barley, corn, rice, soybean, and wheat straws) revealed a highly overlapping group of 430 genes, the biomass commonly induced core set (BICS). A large proportion of induced carbohydrate-active enzyme (CAZy) genes (82 out of 113) were also conserved across the five plant straws. Excluding 178 genes within the BICS that were also upregulated under no-carbon conditions, the remaining 252 genes were defined as the biomass regulon (BR). Interestingly, 88 genes were only induced by plant biomass and not by three individual polysaccharides (Avicel, xylan, and pectin); these were denoted as the biomass unique set (BUS). Deletion of one BUS gene, the transcriptional regulator rca-1, significantly improved lignocellulase production using plant biomass as the sole carbon source, possibly functioning via de-repression of the regulator clr-2. Thus, this result suggests that rca-1 is a potential engineering target for biorefineries, especially for plant biomass direct microbial conversion processes.
Transcriptional profiling revealed a large core response to different sources of plant biomass in N. crassa. The sporulation regulator rca-1 was identified as beneficial for biomass-based enzyme production.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13068-015-0208-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4330645
Neurospora crassa; Crop residues; Transcriptional profiling; Biomass regulon; rca-1
14.  Heterologous complementation of a pyrF deletion in Caldicellulosiruptor hydrothermalis generates a new host for the analysis of biomass deconstruction 
Biotechnology for Biofuels  2014;7(1):132.
Members of the thermophilic, anaerobic Gram-positive bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor grow optimally at 65 to 78°C and degrade lignocellulosic biomass without conventional pretreatment. Decomposition of complex cell wall polysaccharides is a major bottleneck in the conversion of plant biomass to biofuels and chemicals, and conventional biomass pretreatment includes exposure to high temperatures, acids, or bases as well as enzymatic digestion. Members of this genus contain a variety of glycosyl hydrolases, pectinases, and xylanases, but the contribution of these individual enzymes to biomass deconstruction is largely unknown. C. hydrothermalis is of special interest because it is the least cellulolytic of all the Caldicellulosiruptor species so far characterized, making it an ideal naïve system to study key cellulolytic enzymes from these bacteria.
To develop methods for genetic manipulation of C. hydrothermalis, we selected a spontaneous deletion of pyrF, a gene in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway, resulting in a strain that was a uracil auxotroph resistant to 5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA). This strain allowed the selection of prototrophic transformants with either replicating or non-replicating plasmids containing the wild-type pyrF gene. Counter-selection of the pyrF wild-type allele on non-replicating vectors allowed the construction of chromosomal deletions. To eliminate integration of the non-replicating plasmid at the pyrF locus in the C. hydrothermalis chromosome, we used the non-homologous Clostridium thermocellum wild-type pyrF allele to complement the C. hydrothermalis pyrF deletion. The autonomously replicating shuttle vector was maintained at 25 to 115 copies per chromosome. Deletion of the ChyI restriction enzyme in C. hydrothermalis increased the transformation efficiency by an order of magnitude and demonstrated the ability to construct deletions and insertions in the genome of this new host.
The use of C. hydrothermalis as a host for homologous and heterologous expression of enzymes important for biomass deconstruction will enable the identification of enzymes that contribute to the special ability of these bacteria to degrade complex lignocellulosic substrates as well as facilitate the construction of strains to improve and extend their substrate utilization capabilities.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13068-014-0132-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4172971  PMID: 25254074
15.  Evaluation of the bioconversion of genetically modified switchgrass using simultaneous saccharification and fermentation and a consolidated bioprocessing approach 
The inherent recalcitrance of lignocellulosic biomass is one of the major economic hurdles for the production of fuels and chemicals from biomass. Additionally, lignin is recognized as having a negative impact on enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass, and as a result much interest has been placed on modifying the lignin pathway to improve bioconversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks.
Down-regulation of the caffeic acid 3-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene in the lignin pathway yielded switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) that was more susceptible to bioconversion after dilute acid pretreatment. Here we examined the response of these plant lines to milder pretreatment conditions with yeast-based simultaneous saccharification and fermentation and a consolidated bioprocessing approach using Clostridium thermocellum, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii and Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis. Unlike the S. cerevisiae SSF conversions, fermentations of pretreated transgenic switchgrass with C. thermocellum showed an apparent inhibition of fermentation not observed in the wild-type switchgrass. This inhibition can be eliminated by hot water extraction of the pretreated biomass, which resulted in superior conversion yield with transgenic versus wild-type switchgrass for C. thermocellum, exceeding the yeast-based SSF yield. Further fermentation evaluation of the transgenic switchgrass indicated differential inhibition for the Caldicellulosiruptor sp. strains, which could not be rectified by additional processing conditions. Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) metabolite profiling was used to examine the fermentation broth to elucidate the relative abundance of lignin derived aromatic compounds. The types and abundance of fermentation-derived-lignin constituents varied between C. thermocellum and each of the Caldicellulosiruptor sp. strains.
The down-regulation of the COMT gene improves the bioconversion of switchgrass relative to the wild-type regardless of the pretreatment condition or fermentation microorganism. However, bacterial fermentations demonstrated strain-dependent sensitivity to the COMT transgenic biomass, likely due to additional soluble lignin pathway-derived constituents resulting from the COMT gene disruption. Removal of these inhibitory constituents permitted completion of fermentation by C. thermocellum, but not by the Caldicellulosiruptor sp. strains. The reason for this difference in performance is currently unknown.
PMCID: PMC3503607  PMID: 23146305
Transgenic; Switchgrass; Fermentation; Consolidated bioprocessing; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Clostridium thermocellum; Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis; Caldicellulosiruptor bescii
16.  S-Layer Homology Domain Proteins Csac_0678 and Csac_2722 Are Implicated in Plant Polysaccharide Deconstruction by the Extremely Thermophilic Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus 
The genus Caldicellulosiruptor contains extremely thermophilic bacteria that grow on plant polysaccharides. The genomes of Caldicellulosiruptor species reveal certain surface layer homology (SLH) domain proteins that have distinguishing features, pointing to a role in lignocellulose deconstruction. Two of these proteins in Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus (Csac_0678 and Csac_2722) were examined from this perspective. In addition to three contiguous SLH domains, the Csac_0678 gene encodes a glycoside hydrolase family 5 (GH5) catalytic domain and a family 28 carbohydrate-binding module (CBM); orthologs to Csac_0678 could be identified in all genome-sequenced Caldicellulosiruptor species. Recombinant Csac_0678 was optimally active at 75°C and pH 5.0, exhibiting both endoglucanase and xylanase activities. SLH domain removal did not impact Csac_0678 GH activity, but deletion of the CBM28 domain eliminated binding to crystalline cellulose and rendered the enzyme inactive on this substrate. Csac_2722 is the largest open reading frame (ORF) in the C. saccharolyticus genome (predicted molecular mass of 286,516 kDa) and contains two putative sugar-binding domains, two Big4 domains (bacterial domains with an immunoglobulin [Ig]-like fold), and a cadherin-like (Cd) domain. Recombinant Csac_2722, lacking the SLH and Cd domains, bound to cellulose and had detectable carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) hydrolytic activity. Antibodies directed against Csac_0678 and Csac_2722 confirmed that these proteins bound to the C. saccharolyticus S-layer. Their cellular localization and functional biochemical properties indicate roles for Csac_0678 and Csac_2722 in recruitment and hydrolysis of complex polysaccharides and the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass. Furthermore, these results suggest that related SLH domain proteins in other Caldicellulosiruptor genomes may also be important contributors to plant biomass utilization.
PMCID: PMC3264102  PMID: 22138994
17.  Functional Diversity of Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes Enabling a Bacterium to Ferment Plant Biomass 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(11):e1004773.
Microbial metabolism of plant polysaccharides is an important part of environmental carbon cycling, human nutrition, and industrial processes based on cellulosic bioconversion. Here we demonstrate a broadly applicable method to analyze how microbes catabolize plant polysaccharides that integrates carbohydrate-active enzyme (CAZyme) assays, RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), and anaerobic growth screening. We apply this method to study how the bacterium Clostridium phytofermentans ferments plant biomass components including glucans, mannans, xylans, galactans, pectins, and arabinans. These polysaccharides are fermented with variable efficiencies, and diauxies prioritize metabolism of preferred substrates. Strand-specific RNA-seq reveals how this bacterium responds to polysaccharides by up-regulating specific groups of CAZymes, transporters, and enzymes to metabolize the constituent sugars. Fifty-six up-regulated CAZymes were purified, and their activities show most polysaccharides are degraded by multiple enzymes, often from the same family, but with divergent rates, specificities, and cellular localizations. CAZymes were then tested in combination to identify synergies between enzymes acting on the same substrate with different catalytic mechanisms. We discuss how these results advance our understanding of how microbes degrade and metabolize plant biomass.
Author Summary
Plant-fermenting bacteria are important for the global carbon cycle, human nutrition, and industrial production of renewable fuels and commodities from cellulosic biomass. Plants are primarily composed of heterogeneous polysaccharides, requiring plant-degrading microbes to encode many carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) to cleave different sugar linkages. Here we develop a broadly applicable method to study how microbes catabolize plant biomass by determining the combination of CAZymes that depolymerize each polysaccharide into sugars, how the cell alters global mRNA expression, and the efficiency with which each polysaccharide is metabolized. We apply this method to investigate how Clostridium phytofermentans, a bacterium encoding 171 CAZymes, ferments polysaccharides. We assimilate our results into a genetic model of how this bacterium metabolizes plant biomass and discuss how these results further our understanding of microbial plant fermentation.
PMCID: PMC4230839  PMID: 25393313
18.  Metabolic engineering of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii yields increased hydrogen production from lignocellulosic biomass 
Members of the anaerobic thermophilic bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor are emerging candidates for consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) because they are capable of efficiently growing on biomass without conventional pretreatment. C. bescii produces primarily lactate, acetate and hydrogen as fermentation products, and while some Caldicellulosiruptor strains produce small amounts of ethanol C. bescii does not, making it an attractive background to examine the effects of metabolic engineering. The recent development of methods for genetic manipulation has set the stage for rational engineering of this genus for improved biofuel production. Here, we report the first targeted gene deletion, the gene encoding lactate dehydrogenase (ldh), for metabolic engineering of a member of this genus.
A deletion of the C. bescii L-lactate dehydrogenase gene (ldh) was constructed on a non-replicating plasmid and introduced into the C. bescii chromosome by marker replacement. The resulting strain failed to produce detectable levels of lactate from cellobiose and maltose, instead increasing production of acetate and H2 by 21-34% relative to the wild type and ΔpyrFA parent strains. The same phenotype was observed on a real-world substrate – switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Furthermore, the ldh deletion strain grew to a higher maximum optical density than the wild type on maltose and cellobiose, consistent with the prediction that the mutant would gain additional ATP with increased acetate production.
Deletion of ldh in C. bescii is the first use of recently developed genetic methods for metabolic engineering of these bacteria. This deletion resulted in a redirection of electron flow from production of lactate to acetate and hydrogen. New capabilities in metabolic engineering combined with intrinsic utilization of lignocellulosic materials position these organisms to provide a new paradigm for consolidated bioprocessing of fuels and other products from biomass.
PMCID: PMC3677179  PMID: 23731756
ldh; Metabolic engineering; Switchgrass; Biohydrogen; Caldicellulosiruptor
19.  Hydrogenomics of the Extremely Thermophilic Bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(21):6720-6729.
Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus is an extremely thermophilic, gram-positive anaerobe which ferments cellulose-, hemicellulose- and pectin-containing biomass to acetate, CO2, and hydrogen. Its broad substrate range, high hydrogen-producing capacity, and ability to coutilize glucose and xylose make this bacterium an attractive candidate for microbial bioenergy production. Here, the complete genome sequence of C. saccharolyticus, consisting of a 2,970,275-bp circular chromosome encoding 2,679 predicted proteins, is described. Analysis of the genome revealed that C. saccharolyticus has an extensive polysaccharide-hydrolyzing capacity for cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, and starch, coupled to a large number of ABC transporters for monomeric and oligomeric sugar uptake. The components of the Embden-Meyerhof and nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathways are all present; however, there is no evidence that an Entner-Doudoroff pathway is present. Catabolic pathways for a range of sugars, including rhamnose, fucose, arabinose, glucuronate, fructose, and galactose, were identified. These pathways lead to the production of NADH and reduced ferredoxin. NADH and reduced ferredoxin are subsequently used by two distinct hydrogenases to generate hydrogen. Whole-genome transcriptome analysis revealed that there is significant upregulation of the glycolytic pathway and an ABC-type sugar transporter during growth on glucose and xylose, indicating that C. saccharolyticus coferments these sugars unimpeded by glucose-based catabolite repression. The capacity to simultaneously process and utilize a range of carbohydrates associated with biomass feedstocks is a highly desirable feature of this lignocellulose-utilizing, biofuel-producing bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2576683  PMID: 18776029
20.  Use of Label-Free Quantitative Proteomics To Distinguish the Secreted Cellulolytic Systems of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii and Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(12):4042-4054.
The extremely thermophilic, Gram-positive bacteria Caldicellulosiruptor bescii and Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis efficiently degrade both cellulose and hemicellulose, which makes them relevant models for lignocellulosic biomass deconstruction to produce sustainable biofuels. To identify the shared and unique features of secreted cellulolytic apparatuses from C. bescii and C. obsidiansis, label-free quantitative proteomics was used to analyze protein abundance over the course of fermentative growth on crystalline cellulose. Both organisms' secretomes consisted of more than 400 proteins, of which the most abundant were multidomain glycosidases, extracellular solute-binding proteins, flagellin, putative pectate lyases, and uncharacterized proteins with predicted secretion signals. Among the identified proteins, 53 to 57 significantly changed in abundance during cellulose fermentation in favor of glycosidases and extracellular binding proteins. Mass spectrometric characterizations, together with cellulase activity measurements, revealed a substantial abundance increase of a few bifunctional multidomain glycosidases composed of glycosidase (GH) domain family 5, 9, 10, 44, or 48 and family 3 carbohydrate binding (CBM3) modules. In addition to their orthologous cellulases, the organisms expressed unique glycosidases with different domain organizations: C. obsidiansis expressed the COB47_1671 protein with GH10/5 domains, while C. bescii expressed the Athe_1857 (GH10/48) and Athe_1859 (GH5/44) proteins. Glycosidases containing CBM3 domains were selectively enriched via binding to amorphous cellulose. Preparations from both bacteria contained highly thermostable enzymes with optimal cellulase activities at 85°C and pH 5. The C. obsidiansis preparation, however, had higher cellulase specific activity and greater thermostability. The C. bescii culture produced more extracellular protein and additional SDS-PAGE bands that demonstrated glycosidase activity.
PMCID: PMC3131623  PMID: 21498747
21.  Methylation by a Unique α-class N4-Cytosine Methyltransferase Is Required for DNA Transformation of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii DSM6725 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43844.
Thermophilic microorganisms capable of using complex substrates offer special advantages for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels and bioproducts. Members of the Gram-positive bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor are anaerobic thermophiles with optimum growth temperatures between 65°C and 78°C and are the most thermophilic cellulolytic organisms known. In fact, they efficiently use biomass non-pretreated as their sole carbon source and in successive rounds of application digest 70% of total switchgrass substrate. The ability to genetically manipulate these organisms is a prerequisite to engineering them for use in conversion of these complex substrates to products of interest as well as identifying gene products critical for their ability to utilize non-pretreated biomass. Here, we report the first example of DNA transformation of a member of this genus, C. bescii. We show that restriction of DNA is a major barrier to transformation (in this case apparently absolute) and that methylation with an endogenous unique α-class N4-Cytosine methyltransferase is required for transformation of DNA isolated from E. coli. The use of modified DNA leads to the development of an efficient and reproducible method for DNA transformation and the combined frequencies of transformation and recombination allow marker replacement between non-replicating plasmids and chromosomal genes providing the basis for rapid and efficient methods of genetic manipulation.
PMCID: PMC3425538  PMID: 22928042
22.  Caldicellulosiruptor Core and Pangenomes Reveal Determinants for Noncellulosomal Thermophilic Deconstruction of Plant Biomass 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(15):4015-4028.
Extremely thermophilic bacteria of the genus Caldicellulosiruptor utilize carbohydrate components of plant cell walls, including cellulose and hemicellulose, facilitated by a diverse set of glycoside hydrolases (GHs). From a biofuel perspective, this capability is crucial for deconstruction of plant biomass into fermentable sugars. While all species from the genus grow on xylan and acid-pretreated switchgrass, growth on crystalline cellulose is variable. The basis for this variability was examined using microbiological, genomic, and proteomic analyses of eight globally diverse Caldicellulosiruptor species. The open Caldicellulosiruptor pangenome (4,009 open reading frames [ORFs]) encodes 106 GHs, representing 43 GH families, but only 26 GHs from 17 families are included in the core (noncellulosic) genome (1,543 ORFs). Differentiating the strongly cellulolytic Caldicellulosiruptor species from the others is a specific genomic locus that encodes multidomain cellulases from GH families 9 and 48, which are associated with cellulose-binding modules. This locus also encodes a novel adhesin associated with type IV pili, which was identified in the exoproteome bound to crystalline cellulose. Taking into account the core genomes, pangenomes, and individual genomes, the ancestral Caldicellulosiruptor was likely cellulolytic and evolved, in some cases, into species that lost the ability to degrade crystalline cellulose while maintaining the capacity to hydrolyze amorphous cellulose and hemicellulose.
PMCID: PMC3416521  PMID: 22636774
23.  Single-step bioconversion of lignocellulose to hydrogen using novel moderately thermophilic bacteria 
Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) of lignocellulosic biomass to hydrogen offers great potential for lower cost and higher efficiency compared to processes featuring dedicated cellulase production. Current studies on CBP-based hydrogen production mainly focus on using the thermophilic cellulolytic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum and the extremely thermophilic cellulolytic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus. However, no studies have demonstrated that the strains in the genus Thermoanaerobacterium could be used as the sole microorganism to accomplish both cellulose degradation and H2 generation.
We have specifically screened for moderately thermophilic cellulolytic bacteria enabling to produce hydrogen directly from conversion of lignocellulosic materials. Three new strains of thermophilic cellulolytic bacteria in the genus Thermoanaerobacterium growing at a temperature of 60°C were isolated. All of them grew well on various plant polymers including microcrystalline cellulose, filter paper, xylan, glucose, and xylose. In particular, the isolated bacterium, designated as Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum M18, showed high cellulolytic activity and a high yield of H2. When it was grown in 0.5% microcrystalline cellulose, approximately 82% cellulose was consumed, and the H2 yield and maximum production rate reached 10.86 mmol/g Avicel and 2.05 mmol/L/h, respectively. Natural lignocellulosic materials without any physicochemical or biological pretreatment also supported appreciable growth of strain M18, which resulted in 56.07% to 62.71% of insoluble cellulose and hemicellulose polymer degradation in corn cob, corn stalk, and wheat straw with a yield of 3.23 to 3.48 mmol H2/g substrate and an average production rate of 0.10 to 0.13 mmol H2/L/h.
The newly isolated strain T. thermosaccharolyticum M18 displayed effective degradation of lignocellulose and produced large amounts of hydrogen. This is the first report of a Thermoanaerobacterium species presenting cellulolytic characteristics, and this species thus represents a novel cellulolytic bacterium distinguished from all other known cellulolytic bacteria. In comparison, the extraordinary yield and specific rate of hydrogen for strain M18 obtained from lignocellulose make it more attractive in monoculture fermentation. T. thermosaccharolyticum M18 is thus a potential candidate for rapid conversion of lignocellulose to biohydrogen in a single step.
PMCID: PMC4052809  PMID: 24920960
Lignocellulose; Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum; Biohydrogen; Degradation; Consolidated bioprocessing
24.  Supplementing with Non-Glycoside Hydrolase Proteins Enhances Enzymatic Deconstruction of Plant Biomass 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43828.
The glycoside hydrolases (GH) of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii are thermophilic enzymes, and therefore they can hydrolyze plant cell wall polysaccharides at high temperatures. Analyses of two C. bescii glycoside hydrolases, CbCelA-TM1 and CbXyn10A with cellulase and endoxylanase activity, respectively, demonstrated that each enzyme is highly thermostable under static incubation at 70°C. Both enzymes, however, rapidly lost their enzymatic activities when incubated at 70°C with end-over-end shaking. Since crowding conditions, even at low protein concentrations, seem to influence enzymatic properties, three non-glycoside hydrolase proteins were tested for their capacity to stabilize the thermophilic proteins at high temperatures. The three proteins investigated were a small heat shock protein CbHsp18 from C. bescii, a histone MkHistone1 from Methanopyrus kandleri, and bovine RNase A, from a commercial source. Fascinatingly, each of these proteins increased the thermostability of the glycoside hydrolases at 70°C during end-over-end shaking incubation, and this property translated into increases in hydrolysis of several substrates including the bioenergy feedstock Miscanthus. Furthermore, MkHistone1 and RNase A also altered the initial products released from the cello-oligosaccharide cellopentaose during hydrolysis with the cellodextrinase CbCdx1A, which further demonstrated the capacity of the three non-GH proteins to influence hydrolysis of substrates by the thermophilic glycoside hydrolases. The non-GH proteins used in the present report were small proteins derived from each of the three lineages of life, and therefore expand the space from which different polypeptides can be tested for their influence on plant cell wall hydrolysis, a critical step in the emerging biofuel industry.
PMCID: PMC3428283  PMID: 22952777
25.  De novo prediction of the genomic components and capabilities for microbial plant biomass degradation from (meta-)genomes 
Understanding the biological mechanisms used by microorganisms for plant biomass degradation is of considerable biotechnological interest. Despite of the growing number of sequenced (meta)genomes of plant biomass-degrading microbes, there is currently no technique for the systematic determination of the genomic components of this process from these data.
We describe a computational method for the discovery of the protein domains and CAZy families involved in microbial plant biomass degradation. Our method furthermore accurately predicts the capability to degrade plant biomass for microbial species from their genome sequences. Application to a large, manually curated data set of microbial degraders and non-degraders identified gene families of enzymes known by physiological and biochemical tests to be implicated in cellulose degradation, such as GH5 and GH6. Additionally, genes of enzymes that degrade other plant polysaccharides, such as hemicellulose, pectins and oligosaccharides, were found, as well as gene families which have not previously been related to the process. For draft genomes reconstructed from a cow rumen metagenome our method predicted Bacteroidetes-affiliated species and a relative to a known plant biomass degrader to be plant biomass degraders. This was supported by the presence of genes encoding enzymatically active glycoside hydrolases in these genomes.
Our results show the potential of the method for generating novel insights into microbial plant biomass degradation from (meta-)genome data, where there is an increasing production of genome assemblages for uncultured microbes.
PMCID: PMC3585893  PMID: 23414703

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