Filamentous fungi are the main source of enzymes used to degrade lignocellulose to fermentable sugars for the production of biofuels. While the most commonly used organism for the production of cellulases in an industrial setting is Trichoderma reesei (Hypocrea jecorina), recent work in the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa has shown that the variety of molecular, genetic and biochemical techniques developed for this organism can expedite analyses of the complexities involved in the utilization of lignocellulose as a source of carbon. These include elucidating regulatory networks associated with plant cell wall deconstruction, the identification of signaling molecules necessary for induction of the expression of genes encoding lignocellulolytic enzymes and the characterization of new cellulolytic enzymatic activities. In particular, the availability of a full genome deletion strain set for N. crassa has expedited high throughput screening for mutants that display a cellulolytic phenotype. This review summarizes the key findings of several recent studies using N. crassa to further understanding the mechanisms of plant cell wall deconstruction by filamentous fungi.
Cellulase; Lignocellulosic biofuels; Filamentous fungus; Transcriptome; Secretome; Neurospora; Trichoderma
Ethanol is the most-widely used biofuel in the world today. Lignocellulosic plant biomass derived from agricultural residue can be converted to ethanol via microbial bioprocessing. Fungi such as Fusarium oxysporum can simultaneously saccharify straw to sugars and ferment sugars to ethanol. But there are many bottlenecks that need to be overcome to increase the efficacy of microbial production of ethanol from straw, not least enhancement of the rate of fermentation of both hexose and pentose sugars. This research tested the hypothesis that the rate of sugar uptake by F. oxysporum would enhance the ethanol yields from lignocellulosic straw and that high affinity glucose transporters can enhance ethanol yields from this substrate. We characterized a novel hexose transporter (Hxt) from this fungus. The F. oxysporum Hxt represents a novel transporter with homology to yeast glucose signaling/transporter proteins Rgt2 and Snf3, but it lacks their C-terminal domain which is necessary for glucose signalling. Its expression level decreased with increasing glucose concentration in the medium and in a glucose uptake study the Km(glucose) was 0.9 mM, which indicated that the protein is a high affinity glucose transporter. Post-translational gene silencing or over expression of the Hxt in F. oxysporum directly affected the glucose and xylose transport capacity and ethanol yielded by F. oxysporum from straw, glucose and xylose. Thus we conclude that this Hxt has the capacity to transport both C5 and C6 sugars and to enhance ethanol yields from lignocellulosic material. This study has confirmed that high affinity glucose transporters are ideal candidates for improving ethanol yields from lignocellulose because their activity and level of expression is high in low glucose concentrations, which is very common during the process of consolidated processing.
Hydrolysates of plant biomass used for the production of lignocellulosic biofuels typically contain sugar mixtures consisting mainly of D-glucose and D-xylose, and minor amounts of L-arabinose. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the preferred microorganism for the fermentative production of ethanol but is not able to ferment pentose sugars. Although D-xylose and L-arabinose fermenting S. cerevisiae strains have been constructed recently, pentose uptake is still a limiting step in mixed sugar fermentations.
Here we described the cloning and characterization of two sugar transporters, AraT from the yeast Scheffersomyces stipitis and Stp2 from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which mediate the uptake of L-arabinose but not of D-glucose into S. cerevisiae cells. A yeast strain lacking all of its endogenous hexose transporter genes and expressing a bacterial L-arabinose utilization pathway could no longer take up and grow with L-arabinose as the only carbon source. Expression of the heterologous transporters supported uptake and utilization of L-arabinose especially at low L-arabinose concentrations but did not, or only very weakly, support D-glucose uptake and utilization. In contrast, the S. cerevisiae D-galactose transporter, Gal2, mediated uptake of both L-arabinose and D-glucose, especially at high concentrations.
Using a newly developed screening system we have identified two heterologous sugar transporters from a yeast and a plant which can support uptake and utilization of L-arabinose in L-arabinose fermenting S. cerevisiae cells, especially at low L-arabinose concentrations.
We demonstrate improved ethanol yield and productivity through cofermentation of cellobiose and galactose by an engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain expressing genes coding for cellodextrin transporter (cdt-1) and intracellular β-glucosidase (gh1-1) from Neurospora crassa. Simultaneous fermentation of cellobiose and galactose can be applied to producing biofuels from hydrolysates of marine plant biomass.
Cost-efficient generation of second-generation biofuels requires plant biomass that can easily be degraded into sugars and further fermented into fuels. However, lignocellulosic biomass is inherently recalcitrant toward deconstruction technologies due to the abundant lignin and cross-linked hemicelluloses. Furthermore, lignocellulosic biomass has a high content of pentoses, which are more difficult to ferment into fuels than hexoses. Engineered plants with decreased amounts of xylan in their secondary walls have the potential to render plant biomass a more desirable feedstock for biofuel production.
Xylan is the major non-cellulosic polysaccharide in secondary cell walls, and the xylan deficient irregular xylem (irx) mutants irx7, irx8 and irx9 exhibit severe dwarf growth phenotypes. The main reason for the growth phenotype appears to be xylem vessel collapse and the resulting impaired transport of water and nutrients. We developed a xylan-engineering approach to reintroduce xylan biosynthesis specifically into the xylem vessels in the Arabidopsis irx7, irx8 and irx9 mutant backgrounds by driving the expression of the respective glycosyltransferases with the vessel-specific promoters of the VND6 and VND7 transcription factor genes. The growth phenotype, stem breaking strength, and irx morphology was recovered to varying degrees. Some of the plants even exhibited increased stem strength compared to the wild type. We obtained Arabidopsis plants with up to 23% reduction in xylose levels and 18% reduction in lignin content compared to wild-type plants, while exhibiting wild-type growth patterns and morphology, as well as normal xylem vessels. These plants showed a 42% increase in saccharification yield after hot water pretreatment. The VND7 promoter yielded a more complete complementation of the irx phenotype than the VND6 promoter.
Spatial and temporal deposition of xylan in the secondary cell wall of Arabidopsis can be manipulated by using the promoter regions of vessel-specific genes to express xylan biosynthetic genes. The expression of xylan specifically in the xylem vessels is sufficient to complement the irx phenotype of xylan deficient mutants, while maintaining low overall amounts of xylan and lignin in the cell wall. This engineering approach has the potential to yield bioenergy crop plants that are more easily deconstructed and fermented into biofuels.
Xylan; Irregular xylem mutant; Secondary cell wall; VND6; VND7; Transcription factors; Biofuels; Pentoses; Saccharification; Lignin
Economically feasible production of second-generation biofuels requires efficient co-fermentation of pentose and hexose sugars in lignocellulosic hydrolysates under very harsh conditions. Baker’s yeast is an excellent, traditionally used ethanol producer but is naturally not able to utilize pentoses. This is due to the lack of pentose-specific transporter proteins and enzymatic reactions. Thus, natural yeast strains must be modified by genetic engineering. Although the construction of various recombinant yeast strains able to ferment pentose sugars has been described during the last two decades, their rates of pentose utilization is still significantly lower than D-glucose fermentation. Moreover, pentoses are only fermented after D-glucose is exhausted, resulting in an uneconomical increase in the fermentation time. In this addendum, we discuss novel approaches to improve utilization of pentoses by development of specific transporters and substrate channeling in enzyme cascades.
bioethanol; co-fermentation of pentoses with glucose; sugar transport; substrate channeling
Saccharomyces cerevisiae cannot utilize cellobiose, but this yeast can be engineered to ferment cellobiose by introducing both cellodextrin transporter (cdt-1) and intracellular β-glucosidase (gh1-1) genes from Neurospora crassa. Here, we report that an engineered S. cerevisiae strain expressing the putative hexose transporter gene HXT2.4 from Scheffersomyces stipitis and gh1-1 can also ferment cellobiose. This result suggests that HXT2.4p may function as a cellobiose transporter when HXT2.4 is overexpressed in S. cerevisiae. However, cellobiose fermentation by the engineered strain expressing HXT2.4 and gh1-1 was much slower and less efficient than that by an engineered strain that initially expressed cdt-1 and gh1-1. The rate of cellobiose fermentation by the HXT2.4-expressing strain increased drastically after serial subcultures on cellobiose. Sequencing and retransformation of the isolated plasmids from a single colony of the fast cellobiose-fermenting culture led to the identification of a mutation (A291D) in HXT2.4 that is responsible for improved cellobiose fermentation by the evolved S. cerevisiae strain. Substitutions for alanine (A291) of negatively charged amino acids (A291E and A291D) or positively charged amino acids (A291K and A291R) significantly improved cellobiose fermentation. The mutant HXT2.4(A291D) exhibited 1.5-fold higher Km and 4-fold higher Vmax values than those from wild-type HXT2.4, whereas the expression levels were the same. These results suggest that the kinetic properties of wild-type HXT2.4 expressed in S. cerevisiae are suboptimal, and mutations of A291 into bulky charged amino acids might transform HXT2.4p into an efficient transporter, enabling rapid cellobiose fermentation by engineered S. cerevisiae strains.
The discovery and development of novel plant cell wall degrading enzymes is a key step towards more efficient depolymerization of polysaccharides to fermentable sugars for the production of liquid transportation biofuels and other bioproducts. The industrial fungus Trichoderma reesei is known to be highly cellulolytic and is a major industrial microbial source for commercial cellulases, xylanases and other cell wall degrading enzymes. However, enzyme-prospecting research continues to identify opportunities to enhance the activity of T. reesei enzyme preparations by supplementing with enzymatic diversity from other microbes. The goal of this study was to evaluate the enzymatic potential of a broad range of plant pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi for their ability to degrade plant biomass and isolated polysaccharides.
Large-scale screening identified a range of hydrolytic activities among 348 unique isolates representing 156 species of plant pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi. Hierarchical clustering was used to identify groups of species with similar hydrolytic profiles. Among moderately and highly active species, plant pathogenic species were found to be more active than non-pathogens on six of eight substrates tested, with no significant difference seen on the other two substrates. Among the pathogenic fungi, greater hydrolysis was seen when they were tested on biomass and hemicellulose derived from their host plants (commelinoid monocot or dicot). Although T. reesei has a hydrolytic profile that is highly active on cellulose and pretreated biomass, it was less active than some natural isolates of fungi when tested on xylans and untreated biomass.
Several highly active isolates of plant pathogenic fungi were identified, particularly when tested on xylans and untreated biomass. There were statistically significant preferences for biomass type reflecting the monocot or dicot host preference of the pathogen tested. These highly active fungi are promising targets for identification and characterization of novel cell wall degrading enzymes for industrial applications.
The microbial production of ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass is a multi-component process that involves biomass hydrolysis, carbohydrate transport and utilization, and finally, the production of ethanol. Strains of the genus Thermoanaerobacter have been studied for decades due to their innate abilities to produce comparatively high ethanol yields from hemicellulose constituent sugars. However, their inability to hydrolyze cellulose, limits their usefulness in lignocellulosic biofuel production. As such, co-culturing Thermoanaerobacter spp. with cellulolytic organisms is a plausible approach to improving lignocellulose conversion efficiencies and yields of biofuels. To evaluate native lignocellulosic ethanol production capacities relative to competing fermentative end-products, comparative genomic analysis of 11 sequenced Thermoanaerobacter strains, including a de novo genome, Thermoanaerobacter thermohydrosulfuricus WC1, was conducted. Analysis was specifically focused on the genomic potential for each strain to address all aspects of ethanol production mentioned through a consolidated bioprocessing approach. Whole genome functional annotation analysis identified three distinct clades within the genus. The genomes of Clade 1 strains encode the fewest extracellular carbohydrate active enzymes and also show the least diversity in terms of lignocellulose relevant carbohydrate utilization pathways. However, these same strains reportedly are capable of directing a higher proportion of their total carbon flux towards ethanol, rather than non-biofuel end-products, than other Thermoanaerobacter strains. Strains in Clade 2 show the greatest diversity in terms of lignocellulose hydrolysis and utilization, but proportionately produce more non-ethanol end-products than Clade 1 strains. Strains in Clade 3, in which T. thermohydrosulfuricus WC1 is included, show mid-range potential for lignocellulose hydrolysis and utilization, but also exhibit extensive divergence from both Clade 1 and Clade 2 strains in terms of cellular energetics. The potential implications regarding strain selection and suitability for industrial ethanol production through a consolidated bioprocessing co-culturing approach are examined throughout the manuscript.
Production of ethanol and xylitol from lignocellulosic hydrolysates is an alternative to the traditional production of ethanol in utilizing biomass. However, the conversion efficiency of xylose to xylitol is restricted by glucose repression, causing a low xylitol titer. To this end, we cloned genes CDT-1 (encoding a cellodextrin transporter) and gh1-1 (encoding an intracellular β-glucosidase) from Neurospora crassa and XYL1 (encoding a xylose reductase that converts xylose into xylitol) from Scheffersomyces stipitis into Saccharomyces cerevisiae, enabling simultaneous production of ethanol and xylitol from a mixture of cellobiose and xylose (main components of lignocellulosic hydrolysates). We further optimized the expression levels of CDT-1 and XYL1 by manipulating their promoters and copy-numbers, and constructed an engineered S. cerevisiae strain (carrying one copy of PGK1p-CDT1 and two copies of TDH3p-XYL1), which showed an 85.7% increase in xylitol production from the mixture of cellobiose and xylose than that from the mixture of glucose and xylose. Thus, we achieved a balanced co-fermentation of cellobiose (0.165 g/L/h) and xylose (0.162 g/L/h) at similar rates to co-produce ethanol (0.36 g/g) and xylitol (1.00 g/g).
Global concern over the depletion of fossil fuel reserves, and the detrimental impact that combustion of these materials has on the environment, is focusing attention on initiatives to create sustainable approaches for the production and use of biofuels from various biomass substrates. The development of a low-cost, safe and eco-friendly process for the utilization of renewable resources to generate value-added products with biotechnological potential as well as robust microorganisms capable of efficient fermentation of all types of sugars are essential to underpin the economic production of biofuels from biomass feedstocks. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the most established fermentation yeast used in large scale bioconversion strategies, does not however metabolise the pentose sugars, xylose and arabinose and bioengineering is required for introduction of efficient pentose metabolic pathways and pentose sugar transport proteins for bioconversion of these substrates. Our approach provided a basis for future experiments that may ultimately lead to the development of industrial S. cerevisiae strains engineered to express pentose metabolising proteins from thermophilic fungi living on decaying plant material and here we expand our original article and discuss the strategies implemented to improve pentose fermentation.
pentose fermentation; cofactor imbalance; metabolic engineering
Biofuels derived from lignocellulosic biomass offer promising alternative renewable energy sources for transportation fuels. Significant effort has been made to engineer Saccharomyces cerevisiae to efficiently ferment pentose sugars such as D-xylose and L-arabinose into biofuels such as ethanol through heterologous expression of the fungal D-xylose and L-arabinose pathways. However, one of the major bottlenecks in these fungal pathways is that the cofactors are not balanced, which contributes to inefficient utilization of pentose sugars. We utilized a genome-scale model of S. cerevisiae to predict the maximal achievable growth rate for cofactor balanced and imbalanced D-xylose and L-arabinose utilization pathways. Dynamic flux balance analysis (DFBA) was used to simulate batch fermentation of glucose, D-xylose, and L-arabinose. The dynamic models and experimental results are in good agreement for the wild type and for the engineered D-xylose utilization pathway. Cofactor balancing the engineered D-xylose and L-arabinose utilization pathways simulated an increase in ethanol batch production of 24.7% while simultaneously reducing the predicted substrate utilization time by 70%. Furthermore, the effects of cofactor balancing the engineered pentose utilization pathways were evaluated throughout the genome-scale metabolic network. This work not only provides new insights to the global network effects of cofactor balancing but also provides useful guidelines for engineering a recombinant yeast strain with cofactor balanced engineered pathways that efficiently co-utilizes pentose and hexose sugars for biofuels production. Experimental switching of cofactor usage in enzymes has been demonstrated, but is a time-consuming effort. Therefore, systems biology models that can predict the likely outcome of such strain engineering efforts are highly useful for motivating which efforts are likely to be worth the significant time investment.
Hexose and pentose cofermentation is regarded as one of the chief obstacles impeding economical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels. Over time, successful application of traditional metabolic engineering strategy has produced yeast strains capable of utilizing the pentose sugars (especially xylose and arabinose) as sole carbon sources, yet major difficulties still remain for engineering simultaneous, exogenous sugar metabolism. Beyond catabolic pathways, the focus must shift towards non-traditional aspects of cellular engineering such as host molecular transport capability, catabolite sensing and stress response mechanisms. This review highlights the need for an approach termed 'panmetabolic engineering', a new paradigm for integrating new carbon sources into host metabolic pathways. This approach will concurrently optimize the interdependent processes of transport and metabolism using novel combinatorial techniques and global cellular engineering. As a result, panmetabolic engineering is a whole pathway approach emphasizing better pathways, reduced glucose-induced repression and increased product tolerance. In this paper, recent publications are reviewed in light of this approach and their potential to expand metabolic engineering tools. Collectively, traditional approaches and panmetabolic engineering enable the reprogramming of extant biological complexity and incorporation of exogenous carbon catabolism.
A key challenge in the production of second generation biofuels is the conversion of lignocellulosic substrates into fermentable sugars. Enzymes, particularly those from fungi, are a central part of this process, and many have been isolated and characterised. However, relatively little is known of how fungi respond to lignocellulose and produce the enzymes necessary for dis-assembly of plant biomass. We studied the physiological response of the fungus Aspergillus niger when exposed to wheat straw as a model lignocellulosic substrate. Using RNA sequencing we showed that, 24 hours after exposure to straw, gene expression of known and presumptive plant cell wall–degrading enzymes represents a huge investment for the cells (about 20% of the total mRNA). Our results also uncovered new esterases and surface interacting proteins that might form part of the fungal arsenal of enzymes for the degradation of plant biomass. Using transcription factor deletion mutants (xlnR and creA) to study the response to both lignocellulosic substrates and low carbon source concentrations, we showed that a subset of genes coding for degradative enzymes is induced by starvation. Our data support a model whereby this subset of enzymes plays a scouting role under starvation conditions, testing for available complex polysaccharides and liberating inducing sugars, that triggers the subsequent induction of the majority of hydrolases. We also showed that antisense transcripts are abundant and that their expression can be regulated by growth conditions.
The aim of second generation biofuels is to produce fuels from non-food crops and agricultural wastes such as straw. A key, and often limiting, step is the extraction of simple sugars (saccharification) from the complex plant materials. This typically requires the use of fungal enzymes. Many such enzymes have been isolated and characterised, but less is known about how fungi naturally utilise their array of enzymes and what other strategies they employ in degrading plant material. In this study, we show that the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger deploys a large number of plant cell wall-degrading enzymes when using wheat straw as its carbon source. Our results identify several other types of proteins that may play a role in this process, and thereby offer applications in the improvement of current saccharification processes. In addition, we show that wheat straw itself is not initially detected by the fungus and, instead, the onset of carbon starvation triggers the release of a small subset of degradative enzymes. These enzymes might play a scouting role, to sense the presence of plant cell walls and initiate degradation on a small scale, in turn releasing sugars that cause the fungus to express its full degradative arsenal.
The sustainable production of biofuels will require the efficient utilization of lignocellulosic biomass. A key barrier involves the creation of growth-inhibitory compounds by chemical pretreatment steps, which ultimately reduce the efficiency of fermentative microbial biocatalysts. The primary toxins include organic acids, furan derivatives, and phenolic compounds. Weak acids enter the cell and dissociate, resulting in a drop in intracellular pH as well as various anion-specific effects on metabolism. Furan derivatives, dehydration products of hexose and pentose sugars, have been shown to hinder fermentative enzyme function. Phenolic compounds, formed from lignin, can disrupt membranes and are hypothesized to interfere with the function of intracellular hydrophobic targets. This review covers mechanisms of toxicity and tolerance for these compounds with a specific focus on the important industrial organism Escherichia coli. Recent efforts to engineer E. coli for improved tolerance to these toxins are also discussed.
Engineering microorganisms to improve metabolite flux requires detailed knowledge of the concentrations and flux rates of metabolites and metabolic intermediates in vivo. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer sensors represent a promising technology for measuring metabolite levels and corresponding rate changes in live cells. These sensors have been applied successfully in mammalian and plant cells but potentially could also be used to monitor steady-state levels of metabolites in microorganisms using fluorimetric assays. Sensors for hexose and pentose carbohydrates could help in the development of fermentative microorganisms, for example, for biofuels applications. Arabinose is one of the carbohydrates to be monitored during biofuels production from lignocellulose, while maltose is an important degradation product of starch that is relevant for starch-derived biofuels production.
An Escherichia coli expression vector compatible with phage λ recombination technology was constructed to facilitate sensor construction and was used to generate a novel fluorescence resonance energy transfer sensor for arabinose. In parallel, a strategy for improving the sensor signal was applied to construct an improved maltose sensor. Both sensors were expressed in the cytosol of E. coli and sugar accumulation was monitored using a simple fluorimetric assay of E. coli cultures in microtiter plates. In the case of both nanosensors, the addition of the respective ligand led to concentration-dependent fluorescence resonance energy transfer responses allowing quantitative analysis of the intracellular sugar levels at given extracellular supply levels as well as accumulation rates.
The nanosensor destination vector combined with the optimization strategy for sensor responses should help to accelerate the development of metabolite sensors. The new carbohydrate fluorescence resonance energy transfer sensors can be used for in vivo monitoring of sugar levels in prokaryotes, demonstrating the potential of such sensors as reporter tools in the development of metabolically engineered microbial strains or for real-time monitoring of intracellular metabolite during fermentation.
A key step in any process that converts lignocellulose to biofuels is the efficient fermentation of both hexose and pentose sugars. The co-culture of respiratory-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae and wild-type Scheffersomyces stipitis has been identified as a promising system for microaerobic ethanol production because S. cerevisiae only consumes glucose while S. stipitis efficiently converts xylose to ethanol.
To better predict how these two yeasts behave in batch co-culture and to optimize system performance, a dynamic flux balance model describing co-culture metabolism was developed from genome-scale metabolic reconstructions of the individual organisms. First a dynamic model was developed for each organism by estimating substrate uptake kinetic parameters from batch pure culture data and evaluating model extensibility to different microaerobic growth conditions. The co-culture model was constructed by combining the two individual models assuming a cellular objective of total growth rate maximization. To obtain accurate predictions of batch co-culture data collected at different microaerobic conditions, the S. cerevisiae maximum glucose uptake rate was reduced from its pure culture value to account for more efficient S. stipitis glucose uptake in co-culture. The dynamic co-culture model was used to predict the inoculum concentration and aeration level that maximized batch ethanol productivity. The model predictions were validated with batch co-culture experiments performed at the optimal conditions. Furthermore, the dynamic model was used to predict how engineered improvements to the S. stipitis xylose transport system could improve co-culture ethanol production.
These results demonstrate the utility of the dynamic co-culture metabolic model for guiding process and metabolic engineering efforts aimed at increasing microaerobic ethanol production from glucose/xylose mixtures.
Co-culture; Cellulosic ethanol; Fermentation; Mathematical modeling; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Scheffersomyces stipitis
The model bacterium Clostridium cellulolyticum efficiently degrades crystalline cellulose and hemicellulose, using cellulosomes to degrade lignocellulosic biomass. Although it imports and ferments both pentose and hexose sugars to produce a mixture of ethanol, acetate, lactate, H2 and CO2, the proportion of ethanol is low, which impedes its use in consolidated bioprocessing for biofuels production. Therefore genetic engineering will likely be required to improve the ethanol yield. Plasmid transformation, random mutagenesis and heterologous expression systems have previously been developed for C. cellulolyticum, but targeted mutagenesis has not been reported for this organism, hindering genetic engineering.
The first targeted gene inactivation system was developed for C. cellulolyticum, based on a mobile group II intron originating from the Lactococcus lactis L1.LtrB intron. This markerless mutagenesis system was used to disrupt both the paralogous L-lactate dehydrogenase (Ccel_2485; ldh) and L-malate dehydrogenase (Ccel_0137; mdh) genes, distinguishing the overlapping substrate specificities of these enzymes. Both mutations were then combined in a single strain, resulting in a substantial shift in fermentation toward ethanol production. This double mutant produced 8.5-times more ethanol than wild-type cells growing on crystalline cellulose. Ethanol constituted 93% of the major fermentation products, corresponding to a molar ratio of ethanol to organic acids of 15, versus 0.18 in wild-type cells. During growth on acid-pretreated switchgrass, the double mutant also produced four times as much ethanol as wild-type cells. Detailed metabolomic analyses identified increased flux through the oxidative branch of the mutant's tricarboxylic acid pathway.
The efficient intron-based gene inactivation system produced the first non-random, targeted mutations in C. cellulolyticum. As a key component of the genetic toolbox for this bacterium, markerless targeted mutagenesis enables functional genomic research in C. cellulolyticum and rapid genetic engineering to significantly alter the mixture of fermentation products. The initial application of this system successfully engineered a strain with high ethanol productivity from cellobiose, cellulose and switchgrass.
Cellulose; ethanol; biofuel; Clostridium cellulolyticum; metabolic engineering; fermentation
Thermoanaerobic bacteria are of interest in cellulosic-biofuel production, due to their simultaneous pentose and hexose utilization (co-utilization) and thermophilic nature. In this study, we experimentally reconstructed the structure and dynamics of the first genome-wide carbon utilization network of thermoanaerobes. The network uncovers numerous novel pathways and identifies previously unrecognized but crucial pathway interactions and the associated key junctions. First, glucose, xylose, fructose, and cellobiose catabolism are each featured in distinct functional modules; the transport systems of hexose and pentose are apparently both regulated by transcriptional antiterminators of the BglG family, which is consistent with pentose and hexose co-utilization. Second, glucose and xylose modules cooperate in that the activity of the former promotes the activity of the latter via activating xylose transport and catabolism, while xylose delays cell lysis by sustaining coenzyme and ion metabolism. Third, the vitamin B12 pathway appears to promote ethanologenesis through ethanolamine and 1, 2-propanediol, while the arginine deiminase pathway probably contributes to cell survival in stationary phase. Moreover, by experimentally validating the distinct yet collaborative nature of glucose and xylose catabolism, we demonstrated that these novel network-derived features can be rationally exploited for product-yield enhancement via optimized timing and balanced loading of the carbon supply in a substrate-specific manner. Thus, this thermoanaerobic glycobiome reveals novel genetic features in carbon catabolism that may have immediate industrial implications and provides novel strategies and targets for fermentation and genome engineering.
Renewable liquid fuels derived from lignocellulosic biomass could alleviate global energy shortage and climate change. Cellulose and hemicellulose are the main components of lignocellulosic biomass. Therefore, the ability to simultaneously utilize pentose and hexose (i.e., co-utilization) has been a crucial challenge for industrial microbes producing lignocellulosic biofuels. Certain thermoanaerobic bacteria demonstrate this unusual talent, but the genetic foundation and molecular mechanism of this process remain unknown. In this study, we reconstructed the structure and dynamics of the first genome-wide carbon utilization network of thermoanaerobes. This transcriptome-based co-expression network reveals that glucose, xylose, fructose, and cellobiose catabolism are each featured on distinct functional modules. Furthermore, the dynamics of the network suggests a distinct yet collaborative nature between glucose and xylose catabolism. In addition, we experimentally demonstrated that these novel network-derived features can be rationally exploited for product-yield enhancement via optimized timing and balanced loading of the carbon supply in a substrate-specific manner. Thus, the newly discovered modular and precisely regulated network elucidates unique features of thermoanaerobic glycobiomes and reveals novel perturbation strategies and targets for the enhanced thermophilic production of lignocellulosic biofuels.
Sustainable and economically viable manufacturing of bioethanol from lignocellulose raw material is dependent on the availability of a robust ethanol producing microorganism, able to ferment all sugars present in the feedstock, including the pentose sugars L-arabinose and D-xylose. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a robust ethanol producer, but needs to be engineered to achieve pentose sugar fermentation.
A new recombinant S. cerevisiae strain expressing an improved fungal pathway for the utilization of L-arabinose and D-xylose was constructed and characterized. The new strain grew aerobically on L-arabinose and D-xylose as sole carbon sources. The activities of the enzymes constituting the pentose utilization pathway(s) and product formation during anaerobic mixed sugar fermentation were characterized.
Pentose fermenting recombinant S. cerevisiae strains were obtained by the expression of a pentose utilization pathway of entirely fungal origin. During anaerobic fermentation the strain produced biomass and ethanol. L-arabitol yield was 0.48 g per gram of consumed pentose sugar, which is considerably less than previously reported for D-xylose reductase expressing strains co-fermenting L-arabinose and D-xylose, and the xylitol yield was 0.07 g per gram of consumed pentose sugar.
Lignocellulosic biofuels represent a sustainable, renewable, and the only foreseeable alternative energy source to transportation fossil fuels. However, the recalcitrant nature of lignocellulose poses technical hurdles to an economically viable biorefinery. Low enzymatic hydrolysis efficiency and low productivity, yield, and titer of biofuels are among the top cost contributors. Protein engineering has been used to improve the performances of lignocellulose-degrading enzymes, as well as proteins involved in biofuel synthesis pathways. Unlike its great success seen in other industrial applications, protein engineering has achieved only modest results in improving the lignocellulose-to-biofuels efficiency. This review will discuss the unique challenges that protein engineering faces in the process of converting lignocellulose to biofuels and how they are addressed by recent advances in this field.
Efficient degradation of cellulosic biomass requires the synergistic action of the cellulolytic enzymes endoglucanase, cellobiohydrolase, and β-glucosidase. Although there are many reports describing consolidation of hydrolysis and fermentation steps using recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae that express cellulolytic enzymes, the efficiency of cellulose degradation has not been sufficiently improved. Although the yeast S. cerevisiae cannot take up cellooligosaccharide, some fungi can take up and assimilate cellooligosaccharide through a cellodextrin transporter. In this study, a S. cerevisiae strain co-expressing genes for several cell surface display cellulases and the cellodextrin transporter was constructed for the purpose of improving the efficiency of direct ethanol fermentation from phosphoric acid swollen cellulose (PASC). The cellulase/cellodextrin transporter-coexpressing strain produced 1.7-fold more ethanol (4.3 g/L) from PASC during a 72-h fermentation than did a strain expressing cellulase only (2.5 g/L). Direct ethanol production from PASC by the recombinant S. cerevisiae strain was improved by co-expression of cellulase display and cellodextrin transporter genes. These results suggest that cellulase- and cellodextrin transporter-co-expressing S. cerevisiae could be a promising technology for efficient direct ethanol production from cellulose.
Bioethanol; Cellulase; Yeast; Cellodextrin transporter; Cell surface display; Cellulose
Fermentation of lignocellulosic biomass is an attractive alternative for the production of bioethanol. Traditionally, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used in industrial ethanol fermentations. However, S. cerevisiae is naturally not able to ferment the pentose sugars D-xylose and L-arabinose, which are present in high amounts in lignocellulosic raw materials.
We describe the engineering of laboratory and industrial S. cerevisiae strains to co-ferment the pentose sugars D-xylose and L-arabinose. Introduction of a fungal xylose and a bacterial arabinose pathway resulted in strains able to grow on both pentose sugars. Introduction of a xylose pathway into an arabinose-fermenting laboratory strain resulted in nearly complete conversion of arabinose into arabitol due to the L-arabinose reductase activity of the xylose reductase. The industrial strain displayed lower arabitol yield and increased ethanol yield from xylose and arabinose.
Our work demonstrates simultaneous co-utilization of xylose and arabinose in recombinant strains of S. cerevisiae. In addition, the co-utilization of arabinose together with xylose significantly reduced formation of the by-product xylitol, which contributed to improved ethanol production.
Bioethanol produced by microbial fermentations of plant biomass hydrolysates consisting of hexose and pentose mixtures is an excellent alternative to fossil transportation fuels. However, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly used in bioethanol production, can utilize pentose sugars like l-arabinose or d-xylose only after heterologous expression of corresponding metabolic pathways from other organisms. Here we report the improvement of a bacterial l-arabinose utilization pathway consisting of l-arabinose isomerase from Bacillus subtilis and l-ribulokinase and l-ribulose-5-P 4-epimerase from Escherichia coli after expression of the corresponding genes in S. cerevisiae. l-Arabinose isomerase from B. subtilis turned out to be the limiting step for growth on l-arabinose as the sole carbon source. The corresponding enzyme could be effectively replaced by the enzyme from Bacillus licheniformis, leading to a considerably decreased lag phase. Subsequently, the codon usage of all the genes involved in the l-arabinose pathway was adapted to that of the highly expressed genes encoding glycolytic enzymes in S. cerevisiae. Yeast transformants expressing the codon-optimized genes showed strongly improved l-arabinose conversion rates. With this rational approach, the ethanol production rate from l-arabinose could be increased more than 2.5-fold from 0.014 g ethanol h−1 (g dry weight)−1 to 0.036 g ethanol h−1 (g dry weight)−1 and the ethanol yield could be increased from 0.24 g ethanol (g consumed l-arabinose)−1 to 0.39 g ethanol (g consumed l-arabinose)−1. These improvements make up a new starting point for the construction of more-efficient industrial l-arabinose-fermenting yeast strains by evolutionary engineering.
Fermentative bacteria offer the potential to convert lignocellulosic waste-streams into biofuels such as hydrogen (H2) and ethanol. Current fermentative H2 and ethanol yields, however, are below theoretical maxima, vary greatly among organisms, and depend on the extent of metabolic pathways utilized. For fermentative H2 and/or ethanol production to become practical, biofuel yields must be increased. We performed a comparative meta-analysis of (i) reported end-product yields, and (ii) genes encoding pyruvate metabolism and end-product synthesis pathways to identify suitable biomarkers for screening a microorganism’s potential of H2 and/or ethanol production, and to identify targets for metabolic engineering to improve biofuel yields. Our interest in H2 and/or ethanol optimization restricted our meta-analysis to organisms with sequenced genomes and limited branched end-product pathways. These included members of the Firmicutes, Euryarchaeota, and Thermotogae.
Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the absence of genes encoding acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and bifunctional acetaldehyde/alcohol dehydrogenase (AdhE) in Caldicellulosiruptor, Thermococcus, Pyrococcus, and Thermotoga species coincide with high H2 yields and low ethanol production. Organisms containing genes (or activities) for both ethanol and H2 synthesis pathways (i.e. Caldanaerobacter subterraneus subsp. tengcongensis, Ethanoligenens harbinense, and Clostridium species) had relatively uniform mixed product patterns. The absence of hydrogenases in Geobacillus and Bacillus species did not confer high ethanol production, but rather high lactate production. Only Thermoanaerobacter pseudethanolicus produced relatively high ethanol and low H2 yields. This may be attributed to the presence of genes encoding proteins that promote NADH production. Lactate dehydrogenase and pyruvate:formate lyase are not conducive for ethanol and/or H2 production. While the type(s) of encoded hydrogenases appear to have little impact on H2 production in organisms that do not encode ethanol producing pathways, they do influence reduced end-product yields in those that do.
Here we show that composition of genes encoding pathways involved in pyruvate catabolism and end-product synthesis pathways can be used to approximate potential end-product distribution patterns. We have identified a number of genetic biomarkers for streamlining ethanol and H2 producing capabilities. By linking genome content, reaction thermodynamics, and end-product yields, we offer potential targets for optimization of either ethanol or H2 yields through metabolic engineering.