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1.  Bacterial Exopolysaccharides from Extreme Marine Habitats: Production, Characterization and Biological Activities 
Marine Drugs  2010;8(6):1779-1802.
Many marine bacteria produce exopolysaccharides (EPS) as a strategy for growth, adhering to solid surfaces, and to survive adverse conditions. There is growing interest in isolating new EPS producing bacteria from marine environments, particularly from extreme marine environments such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents characterized by high pressure and temperature and heavy metal presence. Marine EPS-producing microorganisms have been also isolated from several extreme niches such as the cold marine environments typically of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, characterized by low temperature and low nutrient concentration, and the hypersaline marine environment found in a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems such as salt lakes and salterns. Most of their EPSs are heteropolysaccharides containing three or four different monosaccharides arranged in groups of 10 or less to form the repeating units. These polymers are often linear with an average molecular weight ranging from 1 × 105 to 3 × 105 Da. Some EPS are neutral macromolecules, but the majority of them are polyanionic for the presence of uronic acids or ketal-linked pyruvate or inorganic residues such as phosphate or sulfate. EPSs, forming a layer surrounding the cell, provide an effective protection against high or low temperature and salinity, or against possible predators. By examining their structure and chemical-physical characteristics it is possible to gain insight into their commercial application, and they are employed in several industries. Indeed EPSs produced by microorganisms from extreme habitats show biotechnological promise ranging from pharmaceutical industries, for their immunomodulatory and antiviral effects, bone regeneration and cicatrizing capacity, to food-processing industries for their peculiar gelling and thickening properties. Moreover, some EPSs are employed as biosurfactants and in detoxification mechanisms of petrochemical oil-polluted areas. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of current knowledge on EPSs produced by marine bacteria including symbiotic marine EPS-producing bacteria isolated from some marine annelid worms that live in extreme niches.
PMCID: PMC2901825  PMID: 20631870
chemical composition; exopolysaccharides; extremophiles; marine bacteria; biological activity
2.  RNA-Seq Analysis Provides Insights for Understanding Photoautotrophic Polyhydroxyalkanoate Production in Recombinant Synechocystis Sp. 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86368.
The photosynthetic cyanobacterium, Synechocystis sp. strain 6803, is a potential platform for the production of various chemicals and biofuels. In this study, direct photosynthetic production of a biopolymer, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), in genetically engineered Synechocystis sp. achieved as high as 14 wt%. This is the highest production reported in Synechocystis sp. under photoautotrophic cultivation conditions without the addition of a carbon source. The addition of acetate increased PHA accumulation to 41 wt%, and this value is comparable to the highest production obtained with cyanobacteria. Transcriptome analysis by RNA-seq coupled with real-time PCR was performed to understand the global changes in transcript levels of cells subjected to conditions suitable for photoautotrophic PHA biosynthesis. There was lower expression of most PHA synthesis-related genes in recombinant Synechocystis sp. with higher PHA accumulation suggesting that the concentration of these enzymes is not the limiting factor to achieving high PHA accumulation. In order to cope with the higher PHA production, cells may utilize enhanced photosynthesis to drive the product formation. Results from this study suggest that the total flux of carbon is the possible driving force for the biosynthesis of PHA and the polymerizing enzyme, PHA synthase, is not the only critical factor affecting PHA-synthesis. Knowledge of the regulation or control points of the biopolymer production pathways will facilitate the further use of cyanobacteria for biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC3899235  PMID: 24466058
3.  Comparison of four phaC genes from Haloferax mediterranei and their function in different PHBV copolymer biosyntheses in Haloarcula hispanica 
Saline Systems  2010;6:9.
The halophilic archaeon Haloferax mediterranei is able to accumulate large amounts of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) with high molar fraction of 3-hydroxyvalerate (3HV) from unrelated carbon sources. A Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) synthase composed of two subunits, PhaCHme and PhaEHme, has been identified in this strain, and shown to account for the PHBV biosynthesis.
With the aid of the genome sequence of Hfx. mediterranei CGMCC 1.2087, three additional phaC genes (designated phaC1, phaC2, and phaC3) were identified, which encoded putative PhaCs. Like PhaCHme (54.8 kDa), PhaC1 (49.7 kDa) and PhaC3 (62.5 kDa) possessed the conserved motifs of type III PHA synthase, which was not observed in PhaC2 (40.4 kDa). Furthermore, the longer C terminus found in the other three PhaCs was also absent in PhaC2. Reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) revealed that, among the four genes, only phaCHme was transcribed under PHA-accumulating conditions in the wild-type strain. However, heterologous coexpression of phaEHme with each phaC gene in Haloarcula hispanica PHB-1 showed that all PhaCs, except PhaC2, could lead to PHBV accumulation with various 3HV fractions. The three kinds of copolymers were characterized using gel-permeation chromatography (GPC), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). Their thermal properties changed with the variations in monomer composition as well as the different molecular weights (Mw), thus might meet various application requirements.
We discover three cryptic phaC genes in Hfx. mediterranei, and demonstrate that genetic engineering of these newly identified phaC genes has biotechnological potential for PHBV production with tailor-made material properties.
PMCID: PMC2939530  PMID: 20727166
4.  The Ralstonia eutropha PhaR Protein Couples Synthesis of the PhaP Phasin to the Presence of Polyhydroxybutyrate in Cells and Promotes Polyhydroxybutyrate Production 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(1):59-66.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are polyoxoesters that are produced by many bacteria and that accumulate as intracellular granules. Phasins (PhaP) are proteins that accumulate during PHA synthesis, bind PHA granules, and promote further PHA synthesis. Interestingly, PhaP accumulation seems to be strictly dependent on PHA synthesis, which is catalyzed by the PhaC PHA synthase. Here we have tested the effect of the Ralstonia eutropha PhaR protein on the regulation of PhaP accumulation. R. eutropha strains with phaR, phaC, and/or phaP deletions were constructed, and PhaP accumulation was measured by immunoblotting. The wild-type strain accumulated PhaP in a manner dependent on PHA production, and the phaC deletion strain accumulated no PhaP, as expected. In contrast, both the phaR and the phaR phaC deletion strains accumulated PhaP to higher levels than did the wild type. This result implies that PhaR is a negative regulator of PhaP accumulation and that PhaR specifically prevents PhaP from accumulating in cells that are not producing PHA. Transfer of the R. eutropha phaR, phaP, and PHA biosynthesis (phaCAB) genes into a heterologous system, Escherichia coli, was sufficient to reconstitute the PhaR/PhaP regulatory system, implying that PhaR both regulates PhaP accumulation and responds to PHA directly. Deletion of phaR caused a decrease in PHA yields, and a phaR phaP deletion strain exhibited a more severe PHA defect than a phaP deletion strain, implying that PhaR promotes PHA production and does this at least partially through a PhaP-independent pathway. Models for regulatory roles of PhaR in regulating PhaP and promoting PHA production are presented.
PMCID: PMC134771  PMID: 11741844
5.  Perspectives on biotechnological applications of archaea 
Archaea  2002;1(2):75-86.
Many archaea colonize extreme environments. They include hyperthermophiles, sulfur-metabolizing thermophiles, extreme halophiles and methanogens. Because extremophilic microorganisms have unusual properties, they are a potentially valuable resource in the development of novel biotechnological processes. Despite extensive research, however, there are few existing industrial applications of either archaeal biomass or archaeal enzymes. This review summarizes current knowledge about the biotechnological uses of archaea and archaeal enzymes with special attention to potential applications that are the subject of current experimental evaluation. Topics covered include cultivation methods, recent achievements in genomics, which are of key importance for the development of new biotechnological tools, and the application of wild-type biomasses, engineered microorganisms, enzymes and specific metabolites in particular bioprocesses of industrial interest.
PMCID: PMC2685559  PMID: 15803645
biotechnology; extremozymes; high density cultivation; recombinant DNA technology
6.  PhaC and PhaR Are Required for Polyhydroxyalkanoic Acid Synthase Activity in Bacillus megaterium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(14):4235-4243.
Polyhydroxyalkanoic acids (PHAs) are a class of polyesters stored in inclusion bodies and found in many bacteria and in some archaea. The terminal step in the synthesis of PHA is catalyzed by PHA synthase. Genes encoding this enzyme have been cloned, and the primary sequence of the protein, PhaC, is deduced from the nucleotide sequences of more than 30 organisms. PHA synthases are grouped into three classes based on substrate range, molecular mass, and whether or not there is a requirement for phaE in addition to the phaC gene product. Here we report the results of an analysis of a PHA synthase that does not fit any of the described classes. This novel PHA synthase from Bacillus megaterium required PhaC (PhaCBm) and PhaR (PhaRBm) for activity in vivo and in vitro. PhaCBm showed greatest similarity to the PhaCs of class III in both size and sequence. Unlike those in class III, the 40-kDa PhaE was not required, and furthermore, the 22-kDa PhaRBm had no obvious homology to PhaE. Previously we showed that PhaCBm, and here we show that PhaRBm, is localized to inclusion bodies in living cells. We show that two forms of PHA synthase exist, an active form in PHA-accumulating cells and an inactive form in nonaccumulating cells. PhaC was constitutively produced in both cell types but was more susceptible to protease degradation in the latter type. Our data show that the role of PhaR is posttranscriptional and that it functions directly or indirectly with PhaCBm to produce an active PHA synthase.
PMCID: PMC95313  PMID: 11418564
7.  Diversity of Microbial Communities in Production and Injection Waters of Algerian Oilfields Revealed by 16S rRNA Gene Amplicon 454 Pyrosequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66588.
The microorganisms inhabiting many petroleum reservoirs are multi-extremophiles capable of surviving in environments with high temperature, pressure and salinity. Their activity influences oil quality and they are an important reservoir of enzymes of industrial interest. To study these microbial assemblages and to assess any modifications that may be caused by industrial practices, the bacterial and archaeal communities in waters from four Algerian oilfields were described and compared. Three different types of samples were analyzed: production waters from flooded wells, production waters from non-flooded wells and injection waters used for flooding (water-bearing formations). Microbial communities of production and injection waters appeared to be significantly different. From a quantitative point of view, injection waters harbored roughly ten times more microbial cells than production waters. Bacteria dominated in injection waters, while Archaea dominated in production waters. Statistical analysis based on the relative abundance and bacterial community composition (BCC) revealed significant differences between production and injection waters at both OTUs0.03 and phylum level. However, no significant difference was found between production waters from flooded and non-flooded wells, suggesting that most of the microorganisms introduced by the injection waters were unable to survive in the production waters. Furthermore, a Venn diagram generated to compare the BCC of production and injection waters of one flooded well revealed only 4% of shared bacterial OTUs. Phylogenetic analysis of bacterial sequences indicated that Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria were the main classes in most of the water samples. Archaeal sequences were only obtained from production wells and each well had a unique archaeal community composition, mainly belonging to Methanobacteria, Methanomicrobia, Thermoprotei and Halobacteria classes. Many of the bacterial genera retrieved had already been reported as degraders of complex organic molecules and pollutants. Nevertheless, a large number of unclassified bacterial and archaeal sequences were found in the analyzed samples, indicating that subsurface waters in oilfields could harbor new and still-non-described microbial species.
PMCID: PMC3689743  PMID: 23805243
8.  The metabolic response of P. putida KT2442 producing high levels of polyhydroxyalkanoate under single- and multiple-nutrient-limited growth: Highlights from a multi-level omics approach 
Pseudomonas putida KT2442 is a natural producer of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which can substitute petroleum-based non-renewable plastics and form the basis for the production of tailor-made biopolymers. However, despite the substantial body of work on PHA production by P. putida strains, it is not yet clear how the bacterium re-arranges its whole metabolism when it senses the limitation of nitrogen and the excess of fatty acids as carbon source, to result in a large accumulation of PHAs within the cell. In the present study we investigated the metabolic response of KT2442 using a systems biology approach to highlight the differences between single- and multiple-nutrient-limited growth in chemostat cultures.
We found that 26, 62, and 81% of the cell dry weight consist of PHA under conditions of carbon, dual, and nitrogen limitation, respectively. Under nitrogen limitation a specific PHA production rate of 0.43 (g·(g·h)-1) was obtained. The residual biomass was not constant for dual- and strict nitrogen-limiting growth, showing a different feature in comparison to other P. putida strains. Dual limitation resulted in patterns of gene expression, protein level, and metabolite concentrations that substantially differ from those observed under exclusive carbon or nitrogen limitation. The most pronounced differences were found in the energy metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, as well as stress proteins and enzymes belonging to the transport system.
This is the first study where the interrelationship between nutrient limitations and PHA synthesis has been investigated under well-controlled conditions using a system level approach. The knowledge generated will be of great assistance for the development of bioprocesses and further metabolic engineering work in this versatile organism to both enhance and diversify the industrial production of PHAs.
PMCID: PMC3325844  PMID: 22433058
P. putida KT2442; Nutrient limitation; Systems biology; Polyhydroxyalkanoates
9.  Role of Genetic Redundancy in Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) Polymerases in PHA Biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(20):5522-5529.
This study investigated the apparent genetic redundancy in the biosynthesis of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) in the Rhodospirillum rubrum genome revealed by the occurrence of three homologous PHA polymerase genes (phaC1, phaC2, and phaC3). In vitro biochemical assays established that each gene product encodes PHA polymerase. A series of single, double, and triple phaC deletion mutants were characterized with respect to PHA production and growth capabilities on acetate or hexanoate as the sole carbon source. These analyses establish that phaC2 contributes the major capacity to produce PHA, even though the PhaC2 protein is not the most efficient PHA polymerase biocatalyst. In contrast, phaC3 is an insignificant contributor to PHA productivity, and phaC1, the PHA polymerase situated in the PHA biosynthetic operon, plays a minor role in this capability, even though both of these genes encode PHA polymerases that are more efficient enzymes. These observations are consistent with the finding that PhaC1 and PhaC3 occur at undetectable levels, at least 10-fold lower than that of PhaC2. The monomers in the PHA polymer produced by these strains establish that PhaC2 is responsible for the incorporation of the C5 and C6 monomers. The in vitro characterizations indicate that heteromeric PHA polymerases composed of mixtures of different PhaC paralogs are more efficient catalysts, suggesting that these proteins form complexes. Finally, the physiological role of PHA accumulation in enhancing the fitness of R. rubrum was indicated by the relationship between PHA content and growth capabilities of the genetically manipulated strains that express different levels of the PHA polymer.
PMCID: PMC3458679  PMID: 22865850
10.  Isolation and Screening of Polyhydroxyalkanoates Producing Bacteria from Pulp, Paper, and Cardboard Industry Wastes 
Background. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are storage materials that accumulate by various bacteria as energy and carbon reserve materials. They are biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and also biocompatible bioplastics. Unlike petrochemical-based plastics that take several decades to fully degrade, PHAs can be completely degraded within a year by variety of microorganisms into CO2 and water. In the present study, we aim to utilize pulp, paper, and cardboard industry sludge and waste water for the isolation and screening of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) accumulating bacteria and production of cost-effective PHB using cardboard industry waste water. Results. A total of 42 isolates showed black-blue coloration when stained with Sudan black B, a preliminary screening agent for lipophilic compounds, and a total of 15 isolates showed positive result with Nile blue A staining, a more specific dye for PHA granules. The isolates NAP11 and NAC1 showed maximum PHA production 79.27% and 77.63% with polymer concentration of 5.236 g/L and 4.042 g/L with cardboard industry waste water. Both of the selected isolates, NAP11 and NAC1, were classified up to genus level by studying their morphological and biochemical characteristics and were found to be Enterococcus sp., Brevundimonas sp. and, respectively. Conclusion. The isolates Enterococcus sp. NAP11 and Brevundimonas sp. NAC1 can be considered as good candidates for industrial production of PHB from cardboard industry waste water. We are reporting for the first time the use of cardboard industry waste water as a cultivation medium for the PHB production.
PMCID: PMC3830821  PMID: 24288534
11.  Small-scale analysis of exopolysaccharides from Streptococcus thermophilus grown in a semi-defined medium 
BMC Microbiology  2001;1:23.
Exopolysaccharides (EPSs) produced by lactic acid bacteria are important for the texture of fermented foods and have received a great deal of interest recently. However, the low production levels of EPSs in combination with the complex media used for growth of the bacteria have caused problems in the accurate analysis of the EPS. The purpose of this study was to find a growth medium for physiological studies of the lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus, and to develop a simple method for qualitative and quantitative analysis of EPSs produced in this medium.
A semi-defined polysaccharide medium was developed and evaluated on six strains of Streptococcus thermophilus. The EPSs were analysed using a novel protocol incorporating ultracentrifugation for the removal of interfering sugars, hydrolysis and analysis of the monomer composition by High Performance Anion-Exchange Chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection. The medium and analysis method allowed accurate quantification and monomer analysis of 0.5 ml samples of EPSs from tube cultures.
The presented medium should be useful for physiological studies of S. thermophilus, and, in combination with the method of analysis of EPS, will allow downscaling of physiological studies and screening for EPSs.
PMCID: PMC57807  PMID: 11602017
12.  Comparison of mcl-Poly(3-hydroxyalkanoates) synthesis by different Pseudomonas putida strains from crude glycerol: citrate accumulates at high titer under PHA-producing conditions 
BMC Biotechnology  2014;14(1):962.
Achieving a sustainable society requires, among other things, the use of renewable feedstocks to replace chemicals obtained from petroleum-derived compounds. Crude glycerol synthesized inexpensively as a byproduct of biodiesel production is currently considered a waste product, which can potentially be converted into value-added compounds by bacterial fermentation. This study aimed at evaluating several characterized P. putida strains to produce medium-chain-length poly(3-hydroxyalkanoates) (mcl-PHA) using raw glycerol as the only carbon/energy source.
Among all tested strains, P. putida KT2440 most efficiently synthesized mcl-PHA under nitrogen-limiting conditions, amassing more than 34% of its cell dry weight as PHA. Disruption of the PHA depolymerase gene (phaZ) in P. putida KT2440 enhanced the biopolymer titer up to 47% PHA (%wt/wt). The low biomass and PHA titer found in the mutant strain and the wild-type strain KT2440 seems to be triggered by the high production of the side-product citrate during the fermentation process which shows a high yield of 0.6 g/g.
Overall, this work demonstrates the importance of choosing an appropriate microbe for the synthesis of mcl-PHA from waste materials, and a close inspection of the cell metabolism in order to identify undesired compounds that diminish the availability of precursors in the synthesis of biopolymers such as polyhydroxyalkanoates. Future metabolic engineering works should focus on reducing the production of citrate in order to modulate resource allocation in the cell’s metabolism of P. putida, and finally increase the biopolymer production.
PMCID: PMC4299480  PMID: 25532606
Pseudomonas putida strains; mcl-polyhydroxyalkanoates; Raw glycerol; PHA depolymerase; Metabolic engineering; Citrate
13.  Evaluating PHA Productivity of Bioengineered Rhodosprillum rubrum 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96621.
This study explored the potential of using Rhodosprillum rubrum as the biological vehicle to convert chemically simple carbon precursors to a value-added bio-based product, the biopolymer PHA. R. rubrum strains were bioengineered to overexpress individually or in various combinations, six PHA biosynthetic genes (phaC1, phaA, phaB, phaC2, phaC3, and phaJ), and the resulting nine over-expressing strains were evaluated to assess the effect on PHA content, and the effect on growth. These experiments were designed to genetically evaluate: 1) the role of each apparently redundant PHA polymerase in determining PHA productivity; 2) identify the key gene(s) within the pha biosynthetic operon that determines PHA productivity; and 3) the role of phaJ to support PHA productivity. The result of overexpressing each PHA polymerase-encoding gene indicates that phaC1 and phaC2 are significant contributors to PHA productivity, whereas phaC3 has little effect. Similarly, over-expressing individually or in combination the three PHA biosynthesis genes located in the pha operon indicates that phaB is the key determinant of PHA productivity. Finally, analogous experiments indicate that phaJ does not contribute significantly to PHA productivity. These bioengineering strains achieved PHA productivity of up to 30% of dry biomass, which is approximately 2.5-fold higher than the non-engineered control strain, indicating the feasibility of using this approach to produce value added bio-based products.
PMCID: PMC4026134  PMID: 24840941
14.  Role of Fatty Acid De Novo Biosynthesis in Polyhydroxyalkanoic Acid (PHA) and Rhamnolipid Synthesis by Pseudomonads: Establishment of the Transacylase (PhaG)-Mediated Pathway for PHA Biosynthesis in Escherichia coli 
Since Pseudomonas aeruginosa is capable of biosynthesis of polyhydroxyalkanoic acid (PHA) and rhamnolipids, which contain lipid moieties that are derived from fatty acid biosynthesis, we investigated various fab mutants from P. aeruginosa with respect to biosynthesis of PHAs and rhamnolipids. All isogenic fabA, fabB, fabI, rhlG, and phaG mutants from P. aeruginosa showed decreased PHA accumulation and rhamnolipid production. In the phaG (encoding transacylase) mutant rhamnolipid production was only slightly decreased. Expression of phaG from Pseudomonas putida and expression of the β-ketoacyl reductase gene rhlG from P. aeruginosa in these mutants indicated that PhaG catalyzes diversion of intermediates of fatty acid de novo biosynthesis towards PHA biosynthesis, whereas RhlG catalyzes diversion towards rhamnolipid biosynthesis. These data suggested that both biosynthesis pathways are competitive. In order to investigate whether PhaG is the only linking enzyme between fatty acid de novo biosynthesis and PHA biosynthesis, we generated five Tn5 mutants of P. putida strongly impaired in PHA production from gluconate. All mutants were complemented by the phaG gene from P. putida, indicating that the transacylase-mediated PHA biosynthesis route represents the only metabolic link between fatty acid de novo biosynthesis and PHA biosynthesis in this bacterium. The transacylase-mediated PHA biosynthesis route from gluconate was established in recombinant E. coli, coexpressing the class II PHA synthase gene phaC1 together with the phaG gene from P. putida, only when fatty acid de novo biosynthesis was partially inhibited by triclosan. The accumulated PHA contributed to 2 to 3% of cellular dry weight.
PMCID: PMC92987  PMID: 11425728
15.  Molecular Characterization of the phaECHm Genes, Required for Biosynthesis of Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate) in the Extremely Halophilic Archaeon Haloarcula marismortui▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(19):6058-6065.
Although many haloarchaea produce biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), the genes involved in PHA synthesis in the domain of Archaea have not yet been experimentally investigated yet. In this study, we revealed that Haloarcula marismortui was able to accumulate poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) up to 21% of cellular dry weight when cultured in a minimal medium with excessive glucose and identified the phaEHm and phaCHm genes, probably encoding two subunits of a class III PHA synthase. These two genes were adjacent and directed by a single promoter located 26 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site and were constitutively expressed under both nutrient-rich and -limited conditions. Interestingly, PhaCHm was revealed to be strongly bound with the PHB granules, but PhaEHm seemed not to be. Introduction of either the phaEHm or phaCHm gene into Haloarcula hispanica, which harbors highly homologous phaECHh genes, could enhance the PHB synthesis in the recombinant strains, while coexpression of the both genes always generated the highest PHB yield. Significantly, knockout of the phaECHh genes in H. hispanica led to a complete loss of the PHA synthase activity. Complementation with phaECHm genes, but not a single one, restored the capability of PHB accumulation as well as the PHA synthase activity in this phaEC-deleted haloarchaeon. These results indicated that the phaEC genes are required for biosynthesis of PHB and might encode an active PHA synthase in the Haloarcula species.
PMCID: PMC2075026  PMID: 17675423
16.  Structure and Ecological Roles of a Novel Exopolysaccharide from the Arctic Sea Ice Bacterium Pseudoalteromonas sp. Strain SM20310 
The structure and ecological roles of the exopolysaccharides (EPSs) from sea ice microorganisms are poorly studied. Here we show that strain SM20310, with an EPS production of 567 mg liter−1, was screened from 110 Arctic sea ice isolates and identified as a Pseudoalteromonas strain. The EPS secreted by SM20310 was purified, and its structural characteristics were studied. The predominant repeating unit of this EPS is a highly complicated α-mannan with a molecular mass greater than 2 × 106 Da. The backbone of the EPS consists of 2-α-, 6-α-mannosyl residues, in which a considerable part of the 6-α-mannosyl residues are branched at the 2 position with either single t-mannosyl residues or two mannosyl residues. The structure of the described EPS is different from the structures of EPSs secreted by other marine bacteria. Analysis of the ecological roles of the identified EPS showed that the EPS could significantly enhance the high-salinity tolerance of SM20310 and improve the survival of SM20310 after freeze-thaw cycles. These results suggest that the EPS secreted by strain SM20310 enables the strain to adapt to the sea ice environment, which is characterized by low temperature, high salinity, and repeated freeze-thaw cycles. In addition to its functions in strain SM20310, this EPS also significantly improved the tolerance of Escherichia coli to freeze-thaw cycles, suggesting that it may have a universal impact on microorganism cryoprotection.
PMCID: PMC3536116  PMID: 23087043
17.  Future of microbial polyesters 
Numerous microorganisms accumulate polyesters classified as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) as carbon and energy storage material when the growth condition is unfavorable in the presence of excess carbon source. Natural PHAs typically consist of various (R)-hydroxycarboxylic acids, and exhibit different material properties depending on the monomer composition. Such diversity comes from different metabolic pathways operating in the cell, and thus generating different monomers. Even more diverse PHAs can be produced by metabolically engineered microorganisms, which leads to the biosynthesis of non-natural polyesters containing lactate as a monomer. In order to make PHAs as useful polymers in our daily life, their production cost should be significantly lowered and material properties should be compatible with those produced by petrochemical industries. Metabolic engineering can address these issues by developing microbial strains capable of producing PHAs of desired material properties with high productivity and yield from inexpensive carbon sources. This commentary aims at peeking into the future of PHAs, focusing on the possible metabolic engineering strategies to be taken to achieve these goals.
PMCID: PMC3680211  PMID: 23714196
Polyester; Polyhydroxyalkanoate; Metabolic engineering
18.  Engineering Escherichia coli for production of C12–C14 polyhydroxyalkanoate from glucose 
Metabolic engineering  2012;14(6):10.1016/j.ymben.2012.08.003.
Demand for sustainable materials motivates the development of microorganisms capable of synthesizing products from renewable substrates. A challenge to commercial production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), microbially derived polyesters, is engineering metabolic pathways to produce a polymer with the desired monomer composition from an unrelated and renewable source. Here, we demonstrate a metabolic pathway for converting glucose into medium-chain-length (mcl)-PHA composed primarily of 3-hydroxydodecanoate monomers. This pathway combines fatty acid biosynthesis, an acyl-ACP thioesterase to generate desired C12 and C14 fatty acids, β-oxidation for conversion of fatty acids to (R)-3-hydroxyacyl-CoAs, and a PHA polymerase. A key finding is that Escherichia coli expresses multiple copies of enzymes involved in β-oxidation under aerobic conditions. To produce polyhydroxydodecanoate, an acyl-ACP thioesterase (BTE), an enoyl-CoA hydratase (phaJ3), and mcl-PHA polymerase (phaC2) were overexpressed in E. coli ΔfadRABIJ. Yields were improved through expression of an acyl-CoA synthetase resulting in production over 15% CDW – the highest reported production of mcl-PHA of a defined composition from an unrelated carbon source.
PMCID: PMC3838867  PMID: 23141473
E. coli; Thioesterase; Polyhydroxyalkanoate; Homopolymer; β-oxidation; Dodecanoic acid
19.  From Waste to Plastic: Synthesis of Poly(3-Hydroxypropionate) in Shimwellia blattae 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(12):3582-3589.
In recent years, glycerol has become an attractive carbon source for microbial processes, as it accumulates massively as a by-product of biodiesel production, also resulting in a decline of its price. A potential use of glycerol in biotechnology is the synthesis of poly(3-hydroxypropionate) [poly(3HP)], a biopolymer with promising properties which is not synthesized by any known wild-type organism. In this study, the genes for 1,3-propanediol dehydrogenase (dhaT) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (aldD) of Pseudomonas putida KT2442, propionate-coenzyme A (propionate-CoA) transferase (pct) of Clostridium propionicum X2, and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) synthase (phaC1) of Ralstonia eutropha H16 were cloned and expressed in the 1,3-propanediol producer Shimwellia blattae. In a two-step cultivation process, recombinant S. blattae cells accumulated up to 9.8% ± 0.4% (wt/wt [cell dry weight]) poly(3HP) with glycerol as the sole carbon source. Furthermore, the engineered strain tolerated the application of crude glycerol derived from biodiesel production, yielding a cell density of 4.05 g cell dry weight/liter in a 2-liter fed-batch fermentation process.
PMCID: PMC3675910  PMID: 23542629
20.  Production of medium chain length polyhydroxyalkanoate in metabolic flux optimized Pseudomonas putida 
Pseudomnas putida is a natural producer of medium chain length polyhydroxyalkanoates (mcl-PHA), a polymeric precursor of bioplastics. A two-fold increase of mcl-PHA production via inactivation of the glucose dehydrogenase gene gcd, limiting the metabolic flux towards side products like gluconate was achieved before. Here, we investigated the overproduction of enzymes catalyzing limiting steps of mcl-PHA precursor formation.
A genome-based in silico model for P. putida KT2440 metabolism was employed to identify potential genetic targets to be engineered for the improvement of mcl-PHA production using glucose as sole carbon source. Here, overproduction of pyruvate dehydrogenase subunit AcoA in the P. putida KT2440 wild type and the Δgcd mutant strains led to an increase of PHA production. In controlled bioreactor batch fermentations PHA production was increased by 33% in the acoA overexpressing wild type and 121% in the acoA overexpressing Δgcd strain in comparison to P. putida KT2440. Overexpression of pgl-encoding 6-phosphoglucolactonase did not influence PHA production. Transcriptome analyses of engineered PHA producing P. putida in comparison to its parental strains revealed the induction of genes encoding glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase and pyruvate dehydrogenase. In addition, NADPH seems to be quantitatively consumed for efficient PHA synthesis, since a direct relationship between low levels of NADPH and high concentrations of the biopolymer were observed. In contrast, intracellular levels of NADH were found increased in PHA producing organisms.
Production of mcl-PHAs was enhanced in P. putida when grown on glucose via overproduction of a pyruvate dehydrogenase subunit (AcoA) in combination with a deletion of the glucose dehydrogenase (gcd) gene as predicted by in silico elementary flux mode analysis.
PMCID: PMC4077159  PMID: 24948031
Medium chain length polyhydroxyalkanoate; Pseudomonas putida; Systems metabolic engineering; Pyruvate dehydrogenase; Glucose
21.  Genetic and Biochemical Characterization of the Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate-co-3-Hydroxyvalerate) Synthase in Haloferax mediterranei▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(12):4173-4180.
The haloarchaeon Haloferax mediterranei has shown promise for the economical production of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV), a desirable bioplastic. However, little is known at present about the genes involved in PHBV synthesis in the domain Archaea. In this study, we cloned the gene cluster (phaECHme) encoding a polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) synthase in H. mediterranei CGMCC 1.2087 via thermal asymmetric interlaced PCR. Western blotting revealed that the phaEHme and phaCHme genes were constitutively expressed, and both the PhaEHme and PhaCHme proteins were strongly bound to the PHBV granules. Interestingly, CGMCC 1.2087 could synthesize PHBV in either nutrient-limited medium (supplemented with 1% starch) or nutrient-rich medium, up to 24 or 18% (wt/wt) in shaking flasks. Knockout of the phaECHme genes in CGMCC 1.2087 led to a complete loss of PHBV synthesis, and only complementation with the phaECHme genes together (but not either one alone) could restore to this mutant the capability for PHBV accumulation. The known haloarchaeal PhaC subunits are much longer at their C termini than their bacterial counterparts, and the C-terminal extension of PhaCHme was proven to be indispensable for its function in vivo. Moreover, the mixture of purified PhaEHme/PhaCHme (1:1) showed significant activity of PHA synthase in vitro. Taken together, our results indicated that a novel member of the class III PHA synthases, composed of PhaCHme and PhaEHme, accounted for the PHBV synthesis in H. mediterranei.
PMCID: PMC2446746  PMID: 18408025
22.  Tight coupling of polymerization and depolymerization of polyhydroxyalkanoates ensures efficient management of carbon resources in Pseudomonas putida 
Microbial Biotechnology  2013;6(5):551-563.
Environmental microbes oscillate between feast and famine and need to carefully manage utilization, storage and conversion of reserve products to exploitable sources of carbon and energy. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are storage polymers that serve bacteria as sources of food materials under physiological conditions of carbon demand. In order to obtain insights into the role of PHA depolymerase (PhaZ) and its relationship to a PHA polymerase (PhaC2) in the carbon management activity of Pseudomonas putida strain U, we created a polymerase hyperexpression strain and a depolymerase knockout mutant of this strain, and examined their synthesis of PHA and expression of their PHA genes. This study revealed that hyperexpression of PhaC2 led to the accumulation of higher amounts of PHA (44%wt) than in the wild-type strain (24%wt) after 24 h of cultivation, which then returned to wild-type levels by 48 h, as a result of elevated depolymerization. The phaZ mutant, however, accumulated higher levels of PHA than the parental strain (62%wt), which were maintained for at least 96 h. Transcriptional analysis of the pha cluster by RT-PCR revealed that PHA operon proteins, including depolymerase, are expressed from the beginning of the growth phase. Hyperexpression of the PhaC2 polymerase was accompanied by an increase in the expression of the PhaZ depolymerase and a decrease in expression of another PHA polymerase, PhaC1. This suggests tight regulatory coupling of PHA polymerase and depolymerase activities that act in synergy, and in concert with other PHA proteins, to provide dynamic PHA granule synthesis and remodelling that rapidly and sensitively respond to changes in availability of carbon and the physiological-metabolic needs of the cell, to ensure optimal carbon resource management.
PMCID: PMC3918157  PMID: 23445364
23.  Characterization and Functional Analyses of R-Specific Enoyl Coenzyme A Hydratases in Polyhydroxyalkanoate-Producing Ralstonia eutropha 
A genome survey of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA)-producing Ralstonia eutropha H16 detected the presence of 16 orthologs of R-specific enoyl coenzyme A (enoyl-CoA) hydratase, among which three proteins shared high homologies with the enzyme specific to enoyl-CoAs of medium chain length encoded by phaJ4 from Pseudomonas aeruginosa (phaJ4Pa). The recombinant forms of the three proteins, termed PhaJ4aRe to PhaJ4cRe, actually showed enoyl-CoA hydratase activity with R specificity, and the catalytic efficiencies were elevated as the substrate chain length increased from C4 to C8. PhaJ4aRe and PhaJ4bRe showed >10-fold-higher catalytic efficiency than PhaJ4cRe. The functions of the new PhaJ4 proteins were investigated using previously engineered R. eutropha strains as host strains; these strains are capable of synthesizing poly((R)-3-hydroxybutyrate-co-(R)-3-hydroxyhexanoate) [P(3HB-co-3HHx)] from soybean oil. Deletion of phaJ4aRe from the chromosome resulted in significant decrease of 3HHx composition in the accumulated copolyester, whereas no change was observed with deletion of phaJ4bRe or phaJ4cRe, indicating that only PhaJ4aRe was one of the major enzymes supplying the (R)-3HHx-CoA monomer through β-oxidation. Introduction of phaJ4aRe or phaJ4bRe into the R. eutropha strains using a broad-host-range vector enhanced the 3HHx composition of the copolyesters, but the introduction of phaJ4cRe did not. The two genes were then inserted into the pha operon on chromosome 1 of the engineered R. eutropha by homologous recombination. These modifications enabled the biosynthesis of P(3HB-co-3HHx) composed of a larger 3HHx fraction without a negative impact on cell growth and PHA production on soybean oil, especially when phaJ4aRe or phaJ4bRe was tandemly introduced with phaJAc from Aeromonas caviae.
PMCID: PMC3255746  PMID: 22081565
24.  Fungal Exopolysaccharide: Production, Composition and Applications 
Microbiology Insights  2013;6:1-16.
Fungal exopolysaccharides (EPSs) have been recognized as high value biomacromolecules for the last two decades. These products, including pullulan, scleroglucan, and botryosphaeran, have several applications in industries, pharmaceuticals, medicine, foods etc. Although fungal EPSs are highly relevant, to date information concerning fungal biosynthesis is scarce and an extensive search for new fugal species that can produce novel EPSs is still needed. In most cases, the molecular weight variations and sugar compositions of fungal EPSs are dependent to culture medium composition and different physical conditions provided during fermentation. An inclusive and illustrative review on fungal EPS is presented here. The general outline of the present work includes fungal EPS production, their compositions and applications. An emphasis is also given to listing out different fungal strains that can produce EPSs.
PMCID: PMC3987751  PMID: 24826070
application; exopolysaccharide composition; exopolysaccharide production; fungal exopolysaccharide
25.  Identification and Biochemical Evidence of a Medium-Chain-Length Polyhydroxyalkanoate Depolymerase in the Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus Predatory Hydrolytic Arsenal 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(17):6017-6026.
The obligate predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD100 shows a large set of proteases and other hydrolases as part of its hydrolytic arsenal needed for its predatory life cycle. We present genetic and biochemical evidence that open reading frame (ORF) Bd3709 of B. bacteriovorus HD100 encodes a novel medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA) depolymerase (PhaZBd). The primary structure of PhaZBd suggests that this enzyme belongs to the α/β-hydrolase fold family and has a typical serine hydrolase catalytic triad (serine-histidine-aspartic acid) in agreement with other PHA depolymerases and lipases. PhaZBd has been extracellularly produced using different hypersecretor Tol-pal mutants of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida as recombinant hosts. The recombinant PhaZBd has been characterized, and its biochemical properties have been compared to those of other PHA depolymerases. The enzyme behaves as a serine hydrolase that is inhibited by phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride. It is also affected by the reducing agent dithiothreitol and nonionic detergents like Tween 80. PhaZBd is an endoexohydrolase that cleaves both large and small PHA molecules, producing mainly dimers but also monomers and trimers. The enzyme specifically degrades mcl-PHA and is inactive toward short-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates (scl-PHA) like polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). These studies shed light on the potentiality of these predators as sources of new biocatalysts, such as an mcl-PHA depolymerase, for the production of enantiopure hydroxyalkanoic acids and oligomers as building blocks for the synthesis of biobased polymers.
PMCID: PMC3416617  PMID: 22706067

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