The ability of Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 wild-type strain to hydrolyze cellulose and ferment the degradation products directly to ethanol and other metabolic byproducts makes it an attractive candidate for consolidated bioprocessing of cellulosic biomass to biofuels. In this study, whole-genome microarrays were used to investigate the expression of C. thermocellum mRNA during growth on crystalline cellulose in controlled replicate batch fermentations.
A time-series analysis of gene expression revealed changes in transcript levels of ~40% of genes (~1300 out of 3198 ORFs encoded in the genome) during transition from early-exponential to late-stationary phase. K-means clustering of genes with statistically significant changes in transcript levels identified six distinct clusters of temporal expression. Broadly, genes involved in energy production, translation, glycolysis and amino acid, nucleotide and coenzyme metabolism displayed a decreasing trend in gene expression as cells entered stationary phase. In comparison, genes involved in cell structure and motility, chemotaxis, signal transduction and transcription showed an increasing trend in gene expression. Hierarchical clustering of cellulosome-related genes highlighted temporal changes in composition of this multi-enzyme complex during batch growth on crystalline cellulose, with increased expression of several genes encoding hydrolytic enzymes involved in degradation of non-cellulosic substrates in stationary phase.
Overall, the results suggest that under low substrate availability, growth slows due to decreased metabolic potential and C. thermocellum alters its gene expression to (i) modulate the composition of cellulosomes that are released into the environment with an increased proportion of enzymes than can efficiently degrade plant polysaccharides other than cellulose, (ii) enhance signal transduction and chemotaxis mechanisms perhaps to sense the oligosaccharide hydrolysis products, and nutrient gradients generated through the action of cell-free cellulosomes and, (iii) increase cellular motility for potentially orienting the cells' movement towards positive environmental signals leading to nutrient sources. Such a coordinated cellular strategy would increase its chances of survival in natural ecosystems where feast and famine conditions are frequently encountered.
Clostridium thermocellum is a candidate consolidated bioprocessing biocatalyst, which is a microorganism that expresses enzymes for both cellulose hydrolysis and its fermentation to produce fuels such as lignocellulosic ethanol. However, C. thermocellum is relatively sensitive to ethanol compared to ethanologenic microorganisms such as yeast and Zymomonas mobilis that are used in industrial fermentations but do not possess native enzymes for industrial cellulose hydrolysis.
In this study, C. thermocellum was grown to mid-exponential phase and then treated with ethanol to a final concentration of 3.9 g/L to investigate its physiological and regulatory responses to ethanol stress. Samples were taken pre-shock and 2, 12, 30, 60, 120, and 240 min post-shock, and from untreated control fermentations for systems biology analyses. Cell growth was arrested by ethanol supplementation with intracellular accumulation of carbon sources such as cellobiose, and sugar phosphates, including fructose-6-phosphate and glucose-6-phosphate. The largest response of C. thermocellum to ethanol shock treatment was in genes and proteins related to nitrogen uptake and metabolism, which is likely important for redirecting the cells physiology to overcome inhibition and allow growth to resume.
This study suggests possible avenues for metabolic engineering and provides comprehensive, integrated systems biology datasets that will be useful for future metabolic modeling and strain development endeavors.
Clostridium thermocellum is an anaerobic thermophilic bacterium that exhibits high levels of cellulose solublization and produces ethanol as an end product of its metabolism. Using cellulosic biomass as a feedstock for fuel production is an attractive prospect, however, growth arrest can negatively impact ethanol production by fermentative microorganisms such as C. thermocellum. Understanding conditions that lead to non-growth states in C. thermocellum can positively influence process design and culturing conditions in order to optimize ethanol production in an industrial setting.
We report here that Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 enters non-growth states in response to specific growth conditions. Non-growth states include the formation of spores and a L-form-like state in which the cells cease to grow or produce the normal end products of metabolism. Unlike other sporulating organisms, we did not observe sporulation of C. thermocellum in low carbon or nitrogen environments. However, sporulation did occur in response to transfers between soluble and insoluble substrates, resulting in approximately 7% mature spores. Exposure to oxygen caused a similar sporulation response. Starvation conditions during continuous culture did not result in spore formation, but caused the majority of cells to transition to a L-form state. Both spores and L-forms were determined to be viable. Spores exhibited enhanced survival in response to high temperature and prolonged storage compared to L-forms and vegetative cells. However, L-forms exhibited faster recovery compared to both spores and stationary phase cells when cultured in rich media.
Both spores and L-forms cease to produce ethanol, but provide other advantages for C. thermocellum including enhanced survival for spores and faster recovery for L-forms. Understanding the conditions that give rise to these two different non-growth states, and the implications that each has for enabling or enhancing C. thermocellum survival may promote the efficient cultivation of this organism and aid in its development as an industrial microorganism.
Economic feasibility and sustainability of lignocellulosic ethanol production requires the development of robust microorganisms that can efficiently degrade and convert plant biomass to ethanol. The anaerobic thermophilic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum is a candidate microorganism as it is capable of hydrolyzing cellulose and fermenting the hydrolysis products to ethanol and other metabolites. C. thermocellum achieves efficient cellulose hydrolysis using multiprotein extracellular enzymatic complexes, termed cellulosomes.
In this study, we used quantitative proteomics (multidimensional LC-MS/MS and 15N-metabolic labeling) to measure relative changes in levels of cellulosomal subunit proteins (per CipA scaffoldin basis) when C. thermocellum ATCC 27405 was grown on a variety of carbon sources [dilute-acid pretreated switchgrass, cellobiose, amorphous cellulose, crystalline cellulose (Avicel) and combinations of crystalline cellulose with pectin or xylan or both]. Cellulosome samples isolated from cultures grown on these carbon sources were compared to 15N labeled cellulosome samples isolated from crystalline cellulose-grown cultures. In total from all samples, proteomic analysis identified 59 dockerin- and 8 cohesin-module containing components, including 16 previously undetected cellulosomal subunits. Many cellulosomal components showed differential protein abundance in the presence of non-cellulose substrates in the growth medium. Cellulosome samples from amorphous cellulose, cellobiose and pretreated switchgrass-grown cultures displayed the most distinct differences in composition as compared to cellulosome samples from crystalline cellulose-grown cultures. While Glycoside Hydrolase Family 9 enzymes showed increased levels in the presence of crystalline cellulose, and pretreated switchgrass, in particular, GH5 enzymes showed increased levels in response to the presence of cellulose in general, amorphous or crystalline.
Overall, the quantitative results suggest a coordinated substrate-specific regulation of cellulosomal subunit composition in C. thermocellum to better suit the organism's needs for growth under different conditions. To date, this study provides the most comprehensive comparison of cellulosomal compositional changes in C. thermocellum in response to different carbon sources. Such studies are vital to engineering a strain that is best suited to grow on specific substrates of interest and provide the building blocks for constructing designer cellulosomes with tailored enzyme composition for industrial ethanol production.
The fermentation of various saccharides derived from cellulosic biomass to ethanol was examined in mono- and cocultures of Clostridium thermocellum strain LQRI and C. thermohydrosulfuricum strain 39E. C. thermohydrosulfuricum fermented glucose, cellobiose, and xylose, but not cellulose or xylan, and yielded ethanol/acetate ratios of >7.0. C. thermocellum fermented a variety of cellulosic substrates, glucose, and cellobiose, but not xylan or xylose, and yielded ethanol/acetate ratios of ∼1.0. At nonlimiting cellulosic substrate concentrations (∼1%), C. thermocellum cellulase hydrolysis products accumulated during monoculture fermentation of Solka Floc cellulose and included glucose, cellobiose, xylose, and xylobiose. A stable coculture that contained nearly equal numbers of C. thermocellum and C. thermohydrosulfuricum was established that fermented a variety of cellulosic substrates, and the ethanol yield observed was twofold higher than in C. thermocellum monoculture fermentations. The metabolic basis for the enhanced fermentation effectiveness of the coculture on Solka Floc cellulose included: the ability of C. thermocellum cellulase to hydrolyze α-cellulose and hemicellulose; the enhanced utilization of mono- and disaccharides by C. thermohydrosulfuricum; increased cellulose consumption; threefold increase in the ethanol production rate; and twofold decrease in the acetate production rate. The coculture actively fermented MN300 cellulose, Avicel, Solka Floc, SO2-treated wood, and steam-exploded wood. The highest ethanol yield obtained was 1.8 mol of ethanol per mol of anhydroglucose unit in MN300 cellulose.
Clostridium thermocellum is a gram-positive, acetogenic, thermophilic, anaerobic bacterium that degrades cellulose and carries out mixed product fermentation, catabolising cellulose to acetate, lactate, and ethanol under various growth conditions, with the concomitant release of H2 and CO2. Very little is known about the factors that determine metabolic fluxes influencing H2 synthesis in anaerobic, cellulolytic bacteria like C. thermocellum. We have begun to investigate the relationships between genome content, gene expression, and end-product synthesis in C. thermocellum cultured under different conditions. Using bioinformatics tools and the complete C. thermocellum 27405 genome sequence, we identified genes encoding key enzymes in pyruvate catabolism and H2-synthesis pathways, and have confirmed transcription of these genes throughout growth on α-cellulose by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Bioinformatic analyses revealed two putative lactate dehydrogenases, one pyruvate formate lyase, four pyruvate:formate lyase activating enzymes, and at least three putative pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (POR) or POR-like enzymes. Our data suggests that hydrogen may be generated through the action of either a Ferredoxin (Fd)-dependent NiFe hydrogenase, often referred to as “Energy-converting Hydrogenases”, or via NAD(P)Hdependent Fe-only hydrogenases which would permit H2 production from NADH generated during the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase reaction. Furthermore, our findings show the presence of a gene cluster putatively encoding a membrane integral NADH:Fd oxidoreductase, suggesting a possible mechanism in which electrons could be transferred between NADH and ferredoxin. The elucidation of pyruvate catabolism pathways and mechanisms of H2 synthesis is the first step in developing strategies to increase hydrogen yields from biomass. Our studies have outlined the likely pathways leading to hydrogen synthesis in C. thermocellum strain 27405, but the actual functional roles of these gene products during pyruvate catabolism and in H 2 synthesis remain to be elucidated, and will need to be confirmed using both expression analysis and protein characterization.
Clostridium thermocellum; Fermentation; Cellulose; Hydrogen; Pyruvate catabolism
A microarray study of chemostat growth on insoluble cellulose or soluble cellobiose has provided substantial new information on Clostridium thermocellum gene expression. This is the first comprehensive examination of gene expression in C. thermocellum under defined growth conditions. Expression was detected from 2,846 of 3,189 genes, and regression analysis revealed 348 genes whose changes in expression patterns were growth rate and/or substrate dependent. Successfully modeled genes included those for scaffoldin and cellulosomal enzymes, intracellular metabolic enzymes, transcriptional regulators, sigma factors, signal transducers, transporters, and hypothetical proteins. Unique genes encoding glycolytic pathway and ethanol fermentation enzymes expressed at high levels simultaneously with previously established maximal ethanol production were also identified. Ranking of normalized expression intensities revealed significant changes in transcriptional levels of these genes. The pattern of expression of transcriptional regulators, sigma factors, and signal transducers indicates that response to growth rate is the dominant global mechanism used for control of gene expression in C. thermocellum.
Cellulose degradation is one of the major bottlenecks of a consolidated bioprocess that employs cellulolytic bacterial cells as catalysts to produce biofuels from cellulosic biomass. In this study, we investigated the spatial and temporal dynamics of cellulose degradation by Caldicellulosiruptfor obsidiansis, which does not produce cellulosomes, and Clostridium thermocellum, which does produce cellulosomes. Results showed that the degradation of either regenerated or natural cellulose was synchronized with biofilm formation, a process characterized by the formation and fusion of numerous crater-like depressions on the cellulose surface. In addition, the dynamics of biofilm formation were similar in both bacteria, regardless of cellulosome production. Only the areas of cellulose surface colonized by microbes were significantly degraded, highlighting the essential role of the cellulolytic biofilm in cellulose utilization. After initial attachment, the microbial biofilm structure remained thin, uniform and dense throughout the experiment. A cellular automaton model, constructed under the assumption that the attached cells divide and produce daughter cells that contribute to the hydrolysis of the adjacent cellulose, can largely simulate the observed process of biofilm formation and cellulose degradation. This study presents a model, based on direct observation, correlating cellulolytic biofilm formation with cellulose degradation.
biofilm; thermophile; cellulosome; cellulose
Clostridium thermocellum is a thermophilic, anaerobic, cellulolytic bacterium that produces ethanol and acetic acid as major fermentation end products. The effect of growth conditions on gene expression in C. thermocellum ATCC 27405 was studied using cells grown in continuous culture under cellobiose or cellulose limitation over a ∼10-fold range of dilution rates (0.013 to 0.16 h−1). Fermentation product distribution displayed similar patterns in cellobiose- or cellulose-grown cultures, including substantial shifts in the proportion of ethanol and acetic acid with changes in growth rate. Expression of 17 genes involved or potentially involved in cellulose degradation, intracellular phosphorylation, catabolite repression, and fermentation end product formation was quantified by real-time PCR, with normalization to two calibrator genes (recA and the 16S rRNA gene) to determine relative expression. Thirteen genes displayed modest (fivefold or less) differences in expression with growth rate or substrate type: sdbA (cellulosomal scaffoldin-dockerin binding protein), cdp (cellodextrin phosphorylase), cbp (cellobiose phosphorylase), hydA (hydrogenase), ldh (lactate dehydrogenase), ack (acetate kinase), one putative type IV alcohol dehydrogenase, two putative cyclic AMP binding proteins, three putative Hpr-like proteins, and a putative Hpr serine kinase. By contrast, four genes displayed >10-fold-reduced levels of expression when grown on cellobiose at dilution rates of >0.05 h−1: cipA (cellulosomal scaffolding protein), celS (exoglucanase), manA (mannanase), and a second type IV alcohol dehydrogenase. The data suggest that at least some cellulosomal components are transcriptionally regulated but that differences in expression with growth rate or among substrates do not directly account for observed changes in fermentation end product distribution.
Clostridium thermocellum is a major candidate for bioethanol production via consolidated bioprocessing. However, the low ethanol tolerance of the organism dramatically impedes its usage in industry. To explore the mechanism of ethanol tolerance in this microorganism, systematic metabolomics was adopted to analyse the metabolic phenotypes of a C. thermocellum wild-type (WT) strain and an ethanol-tolerant strain cultivated without (ET0) or with (ET3) 3% (v/v) exogenous ethanol. Metabolomics analysis elucidated that the levels of numerous metabolites in different pathways were changed for the metabolic adaption of ethanol-tolerant C. thermocellum. The most interesting phenomenon was that cellodextrin was significantly more accumulated in the ethanol-tolerant strain compared with the WT strain, although cellobiose was completely consumed in both the ethanol-tolerant and wild-type strains. These results suggest that the cellodextrin synthesis was active, which might be a potential mechanism for stress resistance. Moreover, the overflow of many intermediate metabolites, which indicates the metabolic imbalance, in the ET0 cultivation was more significant than in the WT and ET3 cultivations. This indicates that the metabolic balance of the ethanol-tolerant strain was adapted better to the condition of ethanol stress. This study provides additional insight into the mechanism of ethanol tolerance and is valuable for further metabolic engineering aimed at higher bioethanol production.
Microorganisms possess diverse metabolic capabilities that can potentially be leveraged for efficient production of biofuels. Clostridium thermocellum (ATCC 27405) is a thermophilic anaerobe that is both cellulolytic and ethanologenic, meaning that it can directly use the plant sugar, cellulose, and biochemically convert it to ethanol. A major challenge in using microorganisms for chemical production is the need to modify the organism to increase production efficiency. The process of properly engineering an organism is typically arduous.
Here we present a genome-scale model of C. thermocellum metabolism, iSR432, for the purpose of establishing a computational tool to study the metabolic network of C. thermocellum and facilitate efforts to engineer C. thermocellum for biofuel production. The model consists of 577 reactions involving 525 intracellular metabolites, 432 genes, and a proteomic-based representation of a cellulosome. The process of constructing this metabolic model led to suggested annotation refinements for 27 genes and identification of areas of metabolism requiring further study. The accuracy of the iSR432 model was tested using experimental growth and by-product secretion data for growth on cellobiose and fructose. Analysis using this model captures the relationship between the reduction-oxidation state of the cell and ethanol secretion and allowed for prediction of gene deletions and environmental conditions that would increase ethanol production.
By incorporating genomic sequence data, network topology, and experimental measurements of enzyme activities and metabolite fluxes, we have generated a model that is reasonably accurate at predicting the cellular phenotype of C. thermocellum and establish a strong foundation for rational strain design. In addition, we are able to draw some important conclusions regarding the underlying metabolic mechanisms for observed behaviors of C. thermocellum and highlight remaining gaps in the existing genome annotations.
Cellulosic biomass is considered as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, but its recalcitrant nature and high cost of cellulase are the major obstacles to utilize this material. Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP), combining cellulase production, saccharification, and fermentation into one step, has been proposed as the most efficient way to reduce the production cost of cellulosic bioethanol. In this study, we developed a cellulolytic yeast consortium for CBP, based on the surface display of cellulosome structure, mimicking the cellulolytic bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum.
We designed a cellulolytic yeast consortium composed of four different yeast strains capable of either displaying a scaffoldin (mini CipA) containing three cohesin domains derived from C. thermocellum, or secreting one of the three types of cellulases, C. thermocellum CelA (endoglucanase) containing its own dockerin, Trichoderma reesei CBHII (exoglucanase) fused with an exogenous dockerin from C. thermocellum, or Aspergillus aculeatus BGLI (β-glucosidase). The secreted dockerin-containing enzymes, CelA and CBHI, were randomly assembled to the surface-displayed mini CipA via cohesin-dockerin interactions. On the other hand, BGLI was independently assembled to the cell surface since we newly found that it already has a cell adhesion characteristic. We optimized the cellulosome activity and ethanol production by controlling the combination ratio among the four yeast strains. A mixture of cells with the optimized mini CipA:CelA:CBHII:BGLI ratio of 2:3:3:0.53 produced 1.80 g/l ethanol after 94 h, indicating about 20% increase compared with a consortium composed of an equal amount of each cell type (1.48 g/l).
We produced cellulosic ethanol using a cellulolytic yeast consortium, which is composed of cells displaying mini cellulosomes generated via random assembly of CelA and CBHII to a mini CipA, and cells displaying BGLI independently. One of the advantages of this system is that ethanol production can be easily optimized by simply changing the combination ratio of the different populations. In addition, there is no limitation on the number of enzymes to be incorporated into this cellulosome structure. Not only cellulases used in this study, but also any other enzymes, including cellulases and hemicellulases, could be applied just by fusing dockerin domains to the enzymes.
Cellulosic bioethanol; Cellulosome; Consolidated bioprocessing; Yeast surface display
Growth of Clostridium thermocellum in batch cultures was studied over a broad range of cellobiose concentrations. Cultures displayed important differences in their substrate metabolism as determined by the end product yields. Bacterial growth was severely limited when the initial cellobiose concentration was 0.2 (wt/vol), was maximal at substrate concentrations between 0.5 and 2.0%, and did not occur at 5.0% cellobiose. Ethanol accumulated maximally (38.3 μmol/109 cells) in cultures with an initial cellobiose concentration of 0.8%, whereas cultures in 2.0% cellobiose accumulated only 17.3 μmol, and substrate-limited cultures (0.2% cellobiose) accumulated little, if any, ethanol beyond that initially detected (8.3 μmol/109 cells). In a medium with 0.8% cellobiose, ethanol was produced at a constant rate of approximately 1.1 μmol/109 cells per h from late-logarithmic phase (16 h) of growth well into stationary phase (44 h). When ethanol was added exogenously at levels more than twice the maximum produced by the cultures themselves (0.5% [vol/vol]), neither the extent of growth (maximum Klett units, 150) nor the amounts of ethanol produced (∼0.17%) by the culture was affected. The ratio of ethanol to acetate was highest (2.8) when cells were grown in 0.8% cellobiose and lowest (1.2) when cells were grown in 0.2% cellobiose.
Regulation of cell-specific cellulase synthesis (expressed in milligrams of cellulase per gram [dry weight] of cells) by Clostridium thermocellum was investigated using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay protocol based on antibody raised against a peptide sequence from the scaffoldin protein of the cellulosome (Zhang and Lynd, Anal. Chem. 75:219-227, 2003). The cellulase synthesis in Avicel-grown batch cultures was ninefold greater than that in cellobiose-grown batch cultures. In substrate-limited continuous cultures, however, the cellulase synthesis with Avicel-grown cultures was 1.3- to 2.4-fold greater than that in cellobiose-grown cultures, depending on the dilution rate. The differences between the cellulase yields observed during carbon-limited growth on cellulose and the cellulase yields observed during carbon-limited growth on cellobiose at the same dilution rate suggest that hydrolysis products other than cellobiose affect cellulase synthesis during growth on cellulose and/or that the presence of insoluble cellulose triggers an increase in cellulase synthesis. Continuous cellobiose-grown cultures maintained either at high dilution rates or with a high feed substrate concentration exhibited decreased cellulase synthesis; there was a large (sevenfold) decrease between 0 and 0.2 g of cellobiose per liter, and there was a much more gradual further decrease for cellobiose concentrations >0.2 g/liter. Several factors suggest that cellulase synthesis in C. thermocellum is regulated by catabolite repression. These factors include: (i) substantially higher cellulase yields observed during batch growth on Avicel than during batch growth on cellobiose, (ii) a strong negative correlation between the cellobiose concentration and the cellulase yield in continuous cultures with varied dilution rates at a constant feed substrate concentration and also with varied feed substrate concentrations at a constant dilution rate, and (iii) the presence of sequences corresponding to key elements of catabolite repression systems in the C. thermocellum genome.
A metabolic isotope-labeling strategy was used in conjunction with nano-liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry peptide sequencing to assess quantitative alterations in the expression patterns of subunits within cellulosomes of the cellulolytic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum, grown on either cellulose or cellobiose. In total, 41 cellulosomal proteins were detected, including 36 type I dockerin-containing proteins, which count among them all but three of the known docking components and 16 new subunits. All differential expression data were normalized to the scaffoldin CipA such that protein per cellulosome was compared for growth between the two substrates. Proteins that exhibited higher expression in cellulosomes from cellulose-grown cells than in cellobiose-grown cells were the cell surface anchor protein OlpB, exoglucanases CelS and CelK, and the glycoside hydrolase family 9 (GH9) endoglucanase CelJ. Conversely, lower expression in cellulosomes from cells grown on cellulose than on cellobiose was observed for the GH8 endoglucanase CelA; GH5 endoglucanases CelB, CelE, CelG; and hemicellulases XynA, XynC, XynZ, and XghA. GH9 cellulases were the most abundant group of enzymes per CipA when cells were grown on cellulose, while hemicellulases were the most abundant group on cellobiose. The results support the existing theory that expression of scaffoldin-related proteins is coordinately regulated by a catabolite repression type of mechanism, as well as the prior observation that xylanase expression is subject to a growth rate-independent type of regulation. However, concerning transcriptional control of cellulases, which had also been previously shown to be subject to catabolite repression, a novel distinction was observed with respect to endoglucanases.
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.
Anaerobic; Caldicellulosiruptor; Consolidated bioprocessing; Ethanol; Extremely thermophilic bacteria; High temperature; Lactate; Lignocellulose; Thermoanaerobacter
Clostridium thermocellum is a Gram-positive thermophilic anaerobic bacterium with the unusual capacity to convert cellulosic biomass into ethanol and hydrogen. Identification and characterization of protein complexes in C. thermocellum are important toward understanding its metabolism and physiology.
A two dimensional blue native/SDS-PAGE procedure was developed to separate membrane protein complexes of C. thermocellum. Proteins spots were identified by MALDI-TOF/TOF Mass spectrometry. 24 proteins were identified representing 13 distinct protein complexes, including several putative intact complexes. Interestingly, subunits of both the F1-F0-ATP synthase and the V1-V0-ATP synthase were detected in the membrane sample, indicating C. thermocellum may use alternative mechanisms for ATP generation.
Two dimensional blue native/SDS-PAGE was used to detect membrane protein complexes in C. thermocellum. More than a dozen putative protein complexes were identified, revealing the simultaneous expression of two sets of ATP synthase. The protocol developed in this work paves the way for further functional characterization of these protein complexes.
The crude extracellular cellulase of Clostridium thermocellum LQRI (virgin strain) was very active and solubilized microcrystalline cellulose at one-half the rate observed for the extracellular cellulase of Trichoderma reesei QM9414 (mutant strain). C. thermocellum cellulase activity differed considerably from that of T. reesei as follows: higher endoglucanase/exoglucanase activity ratio; absence of extracellular cellobiase or β-xylosidase activity; long-chain oligosaccharides instead of short-chain oligosaccharides as initial (15-min) hydrolytic products on microcrystalline cellulose; mainly cellobiose or xylobiose as long-term (24-h) hydrolysis products of Avicel and MN300 or xylan; and high activity and stability at 60 to 70°C. Under optimized reaction conditions, the kinetic properties (Vmax, 0.4 μmol/min per mg of protein; energy of activation, 33 kJ; temperature coefficient, 1.8) of C. thermocellum cellulose-solubilizing activity were comparable to those reported for T. reesei, except that the dyed Avicel concentration at half-maximal velocity was twofold higher (182 μM). The cellulose-solubilizing activity of the two crude cellulases differed considerably in response to various enzyme inhibitors. Most notably, Ag2+ and Hg2+ effectively inhibited C. thermocellum but not T. reesei cellulase at <20 μM, whereas Ca2+, Mg2+, and Mn2+ inhibited T. reesei but not C. thermocellum cellulase at >10 mM. Both enzymes were inhibited by Cu2+ (>20 mM), Zn2+ (>1.0 mM), and ethylene glycol-bis(β-aminoethyl ether)- N,N-tetraacetic acid (>10 mM). T. reesei but not C. thermocellum cellulose-solubilizing activity was 20% inhibited by glucose (73 mM) and cellobiose (29 mM). Both cellulases preferentially cleaved the internal glycosidic bonds of cellooligosaccharides. The overall rates of cellooligosaccharide degradation were higher for T. reesei than for C. thermocellum cellulase, except that the rates of conversion of cellohexaose to cellotriose were equivalent.
Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) is reliant on the simultaneous enzyme production, saccharification of biomass, and fermentation of released sugars into valuable products such as butanol. Clostridial species that produce butanol are, however, unable to grow on crystalline cellulose. In contrast, those saccharolytic species that produce predominantly ethanol, such as Clostridium thermocellum and Clostridium cellulolyticum, degrade crystalline cellulose with high efficiency due to their possession of a multienzyme complex termed the cellulosome. This has led to studies directed at endowing butanol-producing species with the genetic potential to produce a cellulosome, albeit by localising the necessary transgenes to unstable autonomous plasmids. Here we have explored the potential of our previously described Allele-Coupled Exchange (ACE) technology for creating strains of the butanol producing species Clostridium acetobutylicum in which the genes encoding the various cellulosome components are stably integrated into the genome.
We used BioBrick2 (BB2) standardised parts to assemble a range of synthetic genes encoding C. thermocellum cellulosomal scaffoldin proteins (CipA variants) and glycoside hydrolases (GHs, Cel8A, Cel9B, Cel48S and Cel9K) as well as synthetic cellulosomal operons that direct the synthesis of Cel8A, Cel9B and a truncated form of CipA. All synthetic genes and operons were integrated into the C. acetobutylicum genome using the recently developed ACE technology. Heterologous protein expression levels and mini-cellulosome self-assembly were assayed by western blot and native PAGE analysis.
We demonstrate the successful expression, secretion and self-assembly of cellulosomal subunits by the recombinant C. acetobutylicum strains, providing a platform for the construction of novel cellulosomes.
Synthetic mini-cellulosomes; Consolidated bioprocessing; Clostridium acetobutylicum
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.
Industrial production of biofuels and other products by cellulolytic microorganisms is of interest but hindered by the nascent state of genetic tools. Although a genetic system for Clostridium thermocellum DSM1313 has recently been developed, available methods achieve relatively low efficiency and similar plasmids can transform C. thermocellum at dramatically different efficiencies.
We report an increase in transformation efficiency of C. thermocellum for a variety of plasmids by using DNA that has been methylated by Escherichia coli Dam but not Dcm methylases. When isolated from a dam+dcm+E. coli strain, pAMG206 transforms C. thermocellum 100-fold better than the similar plasmid pAMG205, which contains an additional Dcm methylation site in the pyrF gene. Upon removal of Dcm methylation, transformation with pAMG206 showed a four- to seven-fold increase in efficiency; however, transformation efficiency of pAMG205 increased 500-fold. Removal of the Dcm methylation site from the pAMG205 pyrF gene via silent mutation resulted in increased transformation efficiencies equivalent to that of pAMG206. Upon proper methylation, transformation efficiency of plasmids bearing the pMK3 and pB6A origins of replication increased ca. three orders of magnitude.
E. coli Dcm methylation decreases transformation efficiency in C. thermocellum DSM1313. The use of properly methylated plasmid DNA should facilitate genetic manipulation of this industrially relevant bacterium.
Clostridium thermocellum; DNA methylation; Transformation efficiency; Consolidated bioprocessing
The properties of the cellulosome (the cellulose-binding, multicellulase-containing protein complex) in Clostridium thermocellum were examined by comparing the cellulase systems derived from the wild type and an adherence-defective mutant. The growth conditions--specifically, growth either on cellulose (Avicel) or on cellobiose as insoluble or soluble carbon sources, respectively--were found to be critical to the distribution of the cellulosome in the mutant system: the cellobiose-grown mutant (in contrast to the wild type) lacked the cellulosome on its surface and produced only minor quantities of the extracellular cellulosome accompanied by other relatively low-molecular-weight cellulases. The polypeptide composition of the respective purified cellulosome was dependent on the nature of the carbon source and was similar for both wild-type and mutant cells. Ultrastructural analysis revealed the presence of novel polycellulosomal protuberances on the cell surface of the cellobiose-grown wild type which were absent in the mutant.
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.
Transgenic; Switchgrass; Fermentation; Consolidated bioprocessing; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Clostridium thermocellum; Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis; Caldicellulosiruptor bescii
We report development of a genetic system for making targeted gene knockouts in Clostridium thermocellum, a thermophilic anaerobic bacterium that rapidly solubilizes cellulose. A toxic uracil analog, 5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA), was used to select for deletion of the pyrF gene. The ΔpyrF strain is a uracil auxotroph that could be restored to a prototroph via ectopic expression of pyrF from a plasmid, providing a positive genetic selection. Furthermore, 5-FOA was used to select against plasmid-expressed pyrF, creating a negative selection for plasmid loss. This technology was used to delete a gene involved in organic acid production, namely pta, which encodes the enzyme phosphotransacetylase. The C. thermocellum Δpta strain did not produce acetate. These results are the first examples of targeted homologous recombination and metabolic engineering in C. thermocellum, a microbe that holds an exciting and promising future in the biofuel industry and development of sustainable energy resources.
The recombinant CelS (rCelS), the most abundant catalytic subunit of the Clostridium thermocellum cellulosome, displayed typical exoglucanase characteristics, including (i) a preference for amorphous or crystalline cellulose over carboxymethyl cellulose, (ii) an inability to reduce the viscosity of a carboxymethyl cellulose solution, and (iii) the production of few bound reducing ends on the solid substrate. The hydrolysis products from crystalline cellulose were cellobiose and cellotriose at a ratio of 5:1. The rCelS activity on amorphous cellulose was optimal at 70 degrees C and at pH 5 to 6. Its thermostability was increased by Ca2+. Sulfhydryl reagents had only a mild adverse effect on the rCelS activity. Cellotetraose was the smallest oligosaccharide substrate for rCelS, and the hydrolysis rate increased with the substrate chain length. Many of these properties were consistent with those of the cellulosome, indicating a key role for CelS.