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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  Complete Genome Sequence of the Cellulolytic Thermophile Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis OB47T▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(22):6099-6100.
Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis OB47T (ATCC BAA-2073, JCM 16842) is an extremely thermophilic, anaerobic bacterium capable of hydrolyzing plant-derived polymers through the expression of multidomain/multifunctional hydrolases. The complete genome sequence reveals a diverse set of carbohydrate-active enzymes and provides further insight into lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysis at high temperatures.
PMCID: PMC2976464  PMID: 20851897
17.  Cloning, Expression and Characterization of a Novel Thermophilic Polygalacturonase from Caldicellulosiruptor bescii DSM 6725 
We cloned the gene ACM61449 from anaerobic, thermophilic Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, and expressed it in Escherichia coli origami (DE3). After purification through thermal treatment and Ni-NTA agarose column extraction, we characterized the properties of the recombinant protein (CbPelA). The optimal temperature and pH of the protein were 72 °C and 5.2, respectively. CbPelA demonstrated high thermal-stability, with a half-life of 14 h at 70 °C. CbPelA also showed very high activity for polygalacturonic acid (PGA), and released monogalacturonic acid as its sole product. The Vmax and Km of CbPelA were 384.6 U·mg−1 and 0.31 mg·mL−1, respectively. CbPelA was also able to hydrolyze methylated pectin (48% and 10% relative activity on 20%–34% and 85% methylated pectin, respectively). The high thermo-activity and methylated pectin hydrolization activity of CbPelA suggest that it has potential applications in the food and textile industry.
PMCID: PMC4013591  PMID: 24705464
thermophilic polygalacturonase; CbPelA; exo-PGase; Caldicellulosiruptor bescii
18.  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
19.  Biochemical and Mutational Analyses of a Multidomain Cellulase/Mannanase from Caldicellulosiruptor bescii 
Thermophilic cellulases and hemicellulases are of significant interest to the biofuel industry due to their perceived advantages over their mesophilic counterparts. We describe here biochemical and mutational analyses of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii Cel9B/Man5A (CbCel9B/Man5A), a highly thermophilic enzyme. As one of the highly secreted proteins of C. bescii, the enzyme is likely to be critical to nutrient acquisition by the bacterium. CbCel9B/Man5A is a modular protein composed of three carbohydrate-binding modules flanked at the N terminus and the C terminus by a glycoside hydrolase family 9 (GH9) module and a GH5 module, respectively. Based on truncational analysis of the polypeptide, the cellulase and mannanase activities within CbCel9B/Man5A were assigned to the N- and C-terminal modules, respectively. CbCel9B/Man5A and its truncational mutants, in general, exhibited a pH optimum of ∼5.5 and a temperature optimum of 85°C. However, at this temperature, thermostability was very low. After 24 h of incubation at 75°C, the wild-type protein maintained 43% activity, whereas a truncated mutant, TM1, maintained 75% activity. The catalytic efficiency with phosphoric acid swollen cellulose as a substrate for the wild-type protein was 7.2 s−1 ml/mg, and deleting the GH5 module led to a mutant (TM1) with a 2-fold increase in this kinetic parameter. Deletion of the GH9 module also increased the apparent kcat of the truncated mutant TM5 on several mannan-based substrates; however, a concomitant increase in the Km led to a decrease in the catalytic efficiencies on all substrates. These observations lead us to postulate that the two catalytic activities are coupled in the polypeptide.
PMCID: PMC3302618  PMID: 22247178
20.  Complete genome sequence of Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR-2 
Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR-2, an aggressively xylanolytic bacterium isolated from sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) wood, is able to efficiently depolymerize, assimilate and metabolize 4-O-methylglucuronoxylan, the predominant structural component of hardwood hemicelluloses. A basis for this capability was first supported by the identification of genes and characterization of encoded enzymes and has been further defined by the sequencing and annotation of the complete genome, which we describe. In addition to genes implicated in the utilization of β-1,4-xylan, genes have also been identified for the utilization of other hemicellulosic polysaccharides. The genome of Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2 contains 7,184,930 bp in a single replicon with 6,288 protein-coding and 122 RNA genes. Uniquely prominent are 874 genes encoding proteins involved in carbohydrate transport and metabolism. The prevalence and organization of these genes support a metabolic potential for bioprocessing of hemicellulose fractions derived from lignocellulosic resources.
PMCID: PMC3368403  PMID: 22675593
aerobic; mesophile; Gram-positive; Paenibacillus; xylanolytic; xylan
21.  Population Level Analysis of Evolved Mutations Underlying Improvements in Plant Hemicellulose and Cellulose Fermentation by Clostridium phytofermentans 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86731.
The complexity of plant cell walls creates many challenges for microbial decomposition. Clostridium phytofermentans, an anaerobic bacterium isolated from forest soil, directly breaks down and utilizes many plant cell wall carbohydrates. The objective of this research is to understand constraints on rates of plant decomposition by Clostridium phytofermentans and identify molecular mechanisms that may overcome these limitations.
Experimental evolution via repeated serial transfers during exponential growth was used to select for C. phytofermentans genotypes that grow more rapidly on cellobiose, cellulose and xylan. To identify the underlying mutations an average of 13,600,000 paired-end reads were generated per population resulting in ∼300 fold coverage of each site in the genome. Mutations with allele frequencies of 5% or greater could be identified with statistical confidence. Many mutations are in carbohydrate-related genes including the promoter regions of glycoside hydrolases and amino acid substitutions in ABC transport proteins involved in carbohydrate uptake, signal transduction sensors that detect specific carbohydrates, proteins that affect the export of extracellular enzymes, and regulators of unknown specificity. Structural modeling of the ABC transporter complex proteins suggests that mutations in these genes may alter the recognition of carbohydrates by substrate-binding proteins and communication between the intercellular face of the transmembrane and the ATPase binding proteins.
Experimental evolution was effective in identifying molecular constraints on the rate of hemicellulose and cellulose fermentation and selected for putative gain of function mutations that do not typically appear in traditional molecular genetic screens. The results reveal new strategies for evolving and engineering microorganisms for faster growth on plant carbohydrates.
PMCID: PMC3899296  PMID: 24466216
22.  Metagenomic Insights into the Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes Carried by the Microorganisms Adhering to Solid Digesta in the Rumen of Cows 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78507.
The ruminal microbial community is a unique source of enzymes that underpin the conversion of cellulosic biomass. In this study, the microbial consortia adherent on solid digesta in the rumen of Jersey cattle were subjected to an activity-based metagenomic study to explore the genetic diversity of carbohydrolytic enzymes in Jersey cows, with a particular focus on cellulases and xylanases. Pyrosequencing and bioinformatic analyses of 120 carbohydrate-active fosmids identified genes encoding 575 putative Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes (CAZymes) and proteins putatively related to transcriptional regulation, transporters, and signal transduction coupled with polysaccharide degradation and metabolism. Most of these genes shared little similarity to sequences archived in databases. Genes that were predicted to encode glycoside hydrolases (GH) involved in xylan and cellulose hydrolysis (e.g., GH3, 5, 9, 10, 39 and 43) were well represented. A new subfamily (S-8) of GH5 was identified from contigs assigned to Firmicutes. These subfamilies of GH5 proteins also showed significant phylum-dependent distribution. A number of polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) were found, and two of them contained genes encoding Sus-like proteins and cellulases that have not been reported in previous metagenomic studies of samples from the rumens of cows or other herbivores. Comparison with the large metagenomic datasets previously reported of other ruminant species (or cattle breeds) and wallabies showed that the rumen microbiome of Jersey cows might contain differing CAZymes. Future studies are needed to further explore how host genetics and diets affect the diversity and distribution of CAZymes and utilization of plant cell wall materials.
PMCID: PMC3818352  PMID: 24223817
23.  Engineering a Hyperthermophilic Archaeon for Temperature-Dependent Product Formation 
mBio  2012;3(2):e00053-12.
Microorganisms growing near the boiling point have enormous biotechnological potential but only recently have molecular engineering tools become available for them. We have engineered the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally at 100°C, to switch its end products of fermentation in a temperature-controlled fashion without the need for chemical inducers. The recombinant strain (LAC) expresses a gene (ldh) encoding lactate dehydrogenase from the moderately thermophilic Caldicellulosiruptor bescii (optimal growth temperature [Topt] of 78°C) controlled by a “cold shock” promoter that is upregulated when cells are transferred from 98°C to 72°C. At 98°C, the LAC strain fermented sugar to produce acetate and hydrogen as end products, and lactate was not detected. When the LAC strain was grown at 72°C, up to 3 mM lactate was produced instead. Expression of a gene from a moderately thermophilic bacterium in a hyperthermophilic archaeon at temperatures at which the hyperthermophile has low metabolic activity provides a new perspective to engineering microorganisms for bioproduct and biofuel formation.
IMPORTANCE Extremely thermostable enzymes from microorganisms that grow near or above the boiling point of water are already used in biotechnology. However, the use of hyperthermophilic microorganisms themselves for biotechnological applications has been limited by the lack of their genetic accessibility. Recently, a genetic system for Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally near 100°C, was developed in our laboratory. In this study, we present the first heterologous protein expression system for a microorganism that grows optimally at 100°C, a first step towards the potential expression of genes involved in biomass degradation or biofuel production in hyperthermophiles. Moreover, we developed the first system for specific gene induction in P. furiosus. As the cold shock promoter for protein expression used in this study is activated at suboptimal growth temperatures of P. furiosus, it is a powerful genetic tool for protein expression with minimal interference of the host’s metabolism and without the need for chemical inducers.
Extremely thermostable enzymes from microorganisms that grow near or above the boiling point of water are already used in biotechnology. However, the use of hyperthermophilic microorganisms themselves for biotechnological applications has been limited by the lack of their genetic accessibility. Recently, a genetic system for Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally near 100°C, was developed in our laboratory. In this study, we present the first heterologous protein expression system for a microorganism that grows optimally at 100°C, a first step towards the potential expression of genes involved in biomass degradation or biofuel production in hyperthermophiles. Moreover, we developed the first system for specific gene induction in P. furiosus. As the cold shock promoter for protein expression used in this study is activated at suboptimal growth temperatures of P. furiosus, it is a powerful genetic tool for protein expression with minimal interference of the host’s metabolism and without the need for chemical inducers.
PMCID: PMC3345578  PMID: 22511351
24.  Cellodextrin and Laminaribiose ABC Transporters in Clostridium thermocellum▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;191(1):203-209.
Clostridium thermocellum is an anaerobic thermophilic bacterium that grows efficiently on cellulosic biomass. This bacterium produces and secretes a highly active multienzyme complex, the cellulosome, that mediates the cell attachment to and hydrolysis of the crystalline cellulosic substrate. C. thermocellum can efficiently utilize only β-1,3 and β-1,4 glucans and prefers long cellodextrins. Since the bacterium can also produce ethanol, it is considered an attractive candidate for a consolidated fermentation process in which cellulose hydrolysis and ethanol fermentation occur in a single process. In this study, we have identified and characterized five sugar ABC transporter systems in C. thermocellum. The putative transporters were identified by sequence homology of the putative solute-binding lipoprotein to known sugar-binding proteins. Each of these systems is transcribed from a gene cluster, which includes an extracellular solute-binding protein, one or two integral membrane proteins, and, in most cases, an ATP-binding protein. The genes of the five solute-binding proteins were cloned, fused to His tags, overexpressed, and purified, and their abilities to interact with different sugars was examined by isothermal titration calorimetry. Three of the sugar-binding lipoproteins (CbpB to -D) interacted with different lengths of cellodextrins (G2 to G5), with disassociation constants in the micromolar range. One protein, CbpA, binds only cellotriose (G3), while another protein, Lbp (laminaribiose-binding protein) interacts with laminaribiose. The sugar specificity of the different binding lipoproteins is consistent with the observed substrate preference of C. thermocellum, in which cellodextrins (G3 to G5) are assimilated faster than cellobiose.
PMCID: PMC2612431  PMID: 18952792
25.  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

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