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1.  Whole-Genome Microarray and Gene Deletion Studies Reveal Regulation of the Polyhydroxyalkanoate Production Cycle by the Stringent Response in Ralstonia eutropha H16 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(22):8033-8044.
Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) production and mobilization in Ralstonia eutropha are well studied, but in only a few instances has PHB production been explored in relation to other cellular processes. We examined the global gene expression of wild-type R. eutropha throughout the PHB cycle: growth on fructose, PHB production using fructose following ammonium depletion, and PHB utilization in the absence of exogenous carbon after ammonium was resupplied. Our results confirm or lend support to previously reported results regarding the expression of PHB-related genes and enzymes. Additionally, genes for many different cellular processes, such as DNA replication, cell division, and translation, are selectively repressed during PHB production. In contrast, the expression levels of genes under the control of the alternative sigma factor σ54 increase sharply during PHB production and are repressed again during PHB utilization. Global gene regulation during PHB production is strongly reminiscent of the gene expression pattern observed during the stringent response in other species. Furthermore, a ppGpp synthase deletion mutant did not show an accumulation of PHB, and the chemical induction of the stringent response with dl-norvaline caused an increased accumulation of PHB in the presence of ammonium. These results indicate that the stringent response is required for PHB accumulation in R. eutropha, helping to elucidate a thus-far-unknown physiological basis for this process.
PMCID: PMC3485964  PMID: 22961894
2.  Examination of PHB Depolymerases in Ralstonia eutropha: Further Elucidation of the Roles of Enzymes in PHB Homeostasis 
AMB Express  2012;2:26.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are biodegradable polymers that are attractive materials for use in tissue engineering and medical device manufacturing. Ralstonia eutropha is regarded as the model organism for PHA biosynthesis. We examined the effects of PHA depolymerase (PhaZ) expression on PHA homeostasis in R. eutropha strains. In order to analyze the impact of PhaZs on R. eutropha granule architecture, we performed electron microscopy on several phaZ knockout strains and the wild type strain grown under PHA production conditions. Analysis of the acquired micrographs was based on stereology: the ratio of granule area and cell area was determined, along with total granule count per full-size cell image. Cells bearing a phaZ2 knockout mutation alone or in conjunction with a phaZ1 mutation were found to have a high granule volume per cell volume and a higher granule count compared to wild type. A phaZ quadruple knockout strain appeared to have a low granule volume per cell volume and a low granule count per cell. Cells bearing a phaZ3 knockout were found to have a higher granule count than the wild type, whereas granule volume per cell volume was similar. Accordingly, we hypothesize that PhaZs have not only an impact on PHA degradation but also on the 3-dimensional granule architecture. Based on our data, PhaZ2 is postulated to affect granule density. This work increased our knowledge about PHA depolymerases in R. eutropha, including enzymes that had previously been uncharacterized.
PMCID: PMC3430594  PMID: 22537946
Ralstonia eutropha; Polyhydroxyalkanoates; Polyhydroxybutyrate; Biomaterials; Depolymerase; Granules; Carbon utilization; Electron microscopy; Stereology
3.  Characterization of the Highly Active Polyhydroxyalkanoate Synthase of Chromobacterium sp. Strain USM2▿ 
The synthesis of bacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) is very much dependent on the expression and activity of a key enzyme, PHA synthase (PhaC). Many efforts are being pursued to enhance the activity and broaden the substrate specificity of PhaC. Here, we report the identification of a highly active wild-type PhaC belonging to the recently isolated Chromobacterium sp. USM2 (PhaCCs). PhaCCs showed the ability to utilize 3-hydroxybutyrate (3HB), 3-hydroxyvalerate (3HV), and 3-hydroxyhexanoate (3HHx) monomers in PHA biosynthesis. An in vitro assay of recombinant PhaCCs expressed in Escherichia coli showed that its polymerization of 3-hydroxybutyryl-coenzyme A activity was nearly 8-fold higher (2,462 ± 80 U/g) than that of the synthase from the model strain C. necator (307 ± 24 U/g). Specific activity using a Strep2-tagged, purified PhaCCs was 238 ± 98 U/mg, almost 5-fold higher than findings of previous studies using purified PhaC from C. necator. Efficient poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) [P(3HB)] accumulation in Escherichia coli expressing PhaCCs of up to 76 ± 2 weight percent was observed within 24 h of cultivation. To date, this is the highest activity reported for a purified PHA synthase. PhaCCs is a naturally occurring, highly active PHA synthase with superior polymerizing ability.
PMCID: PMC3126384  PMID: 21398494
4.  Production of Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate-co-3-Hydroxyhexanoate) from Plant Oil by Engineered Ralstonia eutropha Strains▿† 
The polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) copolymer poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) [P(HB-co-HHx)] has been shown to have potential to serve as a commercial bioplastic. Synthesis of P(HB-co-HHx) from plant oil has been demonstrated with recombinant Ralstonia eutropha strains expressing heterologous PHA synthases capable of incorporating HB and HHx into the polymer. With these strains, however, short-chain-length fatty acids had to be included in the medium to generate PHA with high HHx content. Our group has engineered two R. eutropha strains that accumulate high levels of P(HB-co-HHx) with significant HHx content directly from palm oil, one of the world's most abundant plant oils. The strains express a newly characterized PHA synthase gene from the bacterium Rhodococcus aetherivorans I24. Expression of an enoyl coenzyme A (enoyl-CoA) hydratase gene (phaJ) from Pseudomonas aeruginosa was shown to increase PHA accumulation. Furthermore, varying the activity of acetoacetyl-CoA reductase (encoded by phaB) altered the level of HHx in the polymer. The strains with the highest PHA titers utilized plasmids for recombinant gene expression, so an R. eutropha plasmid stability system was developed. In this system, the essential pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase gene proC was deleted from strain genomes and expressed from a plasmid, making the plasmid necessary for growth in minimal media. This study resulted in two engineered strains for production of P(HB-co-HHx) from palm oil. In palm oil fermentations, one strain accumulated 71% of its cell dry weight as PHA with 17 mol% HHx, while the other strain accumulated 66% of its cell dry weight as PHA with 30 mol% HHx.
PMCID: PMC3126409  PMID: 21398488
5.  Roles of Multiple Acetoacetyl Coenzyme A Reductases in Polyhydroxybutyrate Biosynthesis in Ralstonia eutropha H16 ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(20):5319-5328.
The bacterium Ralstonia eutropha H16 synthesizes polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) from acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) through reactions catalyzed by a β-ketothiolase (PhaA), an acetoacetyl-CoA reductase (PhaB), and a polyhydroxyalkanoate synthase (PhaC). An operon of three genes encoding these enzymatic steps was discovered in R. eutropha and has been well studied. Sequencing and analysis of the R. eutropha genome revealed putative isologs for each of the PHB biosynthetic genes, many of which had never been characterized. In addition to the previously identified phaB1 gene, the genome contains the isologs phaB2 and phaB3 as well as 15 other potential acetoacetyl-CoA reductases. We have investigated the roles of the three phaB isologs by deleting them from the genome individually and in combination. It was discovered that the gene products of both phaB1 and phaB3 contribute to PHB biosynthesis in fructose minimal medium but that in plant oil minimal medium and rich medium, phaB3 seems to be unexpressed. This raises interesting questions concerning the regulation of phaB3 expression. Deletion of the gene phaB2 did not result in an observable phenotype under the conditions tested, although this gene does encode an active reductase. Addition of the individual reductase genes to the genome of the ΔphaB1 ΔphaB2 ΔphaB3 strain restored PHB production, and in the course of our complementation experiments, we serendipitously created a PHB-hyperproducing mutant. Measurement of the PhaB and PhaA activities of the mutant strains indicated that the thiolase reaction is the limiting step in PHB biosynthesis in R. eutropha H16 during nitrogen-limited growth on fructose.
PMCID: PMC2950492  PMID: 20729355
6.  Elucidation of β-Oxidation Pathways in Ralstonia eutropha H16 by Examination of Global Gene Expression▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(20):5454-5464.
Ralstonia eutropha H16 is capable of growth and polyhydroxyalkanoate production on plant oils and fatty acids. However, little is known about the triacylglycerol and fatty acid degradation pathways of this bacterium. We compare whole-cell gene expression levels of R. eutropha H16 during growth and polyhydroxyalkanoate production on trioleate and fructose. Trioleate is a triacylglycerol that serves as a model for plant oils. Among the genes of note, two potential fatty acid β-oxidation operons and two putative lipase genes were shown to be upregulated in trioleate cultures. The genes of the glyoxylate bypass also exhibit increased expression during growth on trioleate. We observed that single β-oxidation operon deletion mutants of R. eutropha could grow using palm oil or crude palm kernel oil as the sole carbon source, regardless of which operon was present in the genome, but a double mutant was unable to grow under these conditions. A lipase deletion mutant did not exhibit a growth defect in emulsified oil cultures but did exhibit a phenotype in cultures containing nonemulsified oil. Mutants of the glyoxylate shunt gene for isocitrate lyase were able to grow in the presence of oils, while a malate synthase (aceB) deletion mutant grew more slowly than wild type. Gene expression under polyhydroxyalkanoate storage conditions was also examined. Many findings of this analysis confirm results from previous studies by our group and others. This work represents the first examination of global gene expression involving triacylglycerol and fatty acid catabolism genes in R. eutropha.
PMCID: PMC2950501  PMID: 20709892
7.  Oil palm vegetation liquor: a new source of phenolic bioactives 
The British Journal of Nutrition  2011;106(11):1655-1663.
Waste from agricultural products represents a disposal liability, which needs to be addressed. Palm oil is the most widely traded edible oil globally, and its production generates 85 million tons of aqueous by-products annually. This aqueous stream is rich in phenolic antioxidants, which were investigated for their composition and potential in vitro biological activity. We have identified three isomers of caffeoylshikimic acid as major components of oil palm phenolics (OPP). The 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl assay confirmed potent free radical scavenging activity. To test for possible cardioprotective effects of OPP, we carried out in vitro LDL oxidation studies as well as ex vivo aortic ring and mesenteric vascular bed relaxation measurements. We found that OPP inhibited the Cu-mediated oxidation of human LDL. OPP also promoted vascular relaxation in both isolated aortic rings and perfused mesenteric vascular beds pre-contracted with noradrenaline. To rule out developmental toxicity, we performed teratological studies on rats up to the third generation and did not find any congenital anomalies. Thus, these initial studies suggest that OPP is safe and may have a protective role against free radical damage, LDL oxidation and its attendant negative effects, as well as vascular constriction in mitigating atherosclerosis. Oil palm vegetation liquor thus represents a new source of phenolic bioactives.
PMCID: PMC4179495  PMID: 21736792
Oil palm phenolics; Caffeoylshikimic acid; Antioxidant activity; Teratology
8.  Positive outcomes of oil palm phenolics on degenerative diseases in animal models 
The British Journal of Nutrition  2011;106(11):1664-1675.
It is well established that plant phenolics elicit various biological activities, with positive effects on health. Palm oil production results in large volumes of aqueous by-products containing phenolics. In the present study, we describe the effects of oil palm phenolics (OPP) on several degenerative conditions using various animal models. OPP reduced blood pressure in a NO-deficient rat model, protected against ischaemia-induced cardiac arrhythmia in rats and reduced plaque formation in rabbits fed an atherogenic diet. In Nile rats, a spontaneous model of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, OPP protected against multiple aspects of the syndrome and diabetes progression. In tumour-inoculated mice, OPP protected against cancer progression. Microarray studies on the tumours showed differential transcriptome profiles that suggest anti-tumour molecular mechanisms involved in OPP action. Thus, initial studies suggest that OPP may have potential against several chronic disease outcomes in mammals.
PMCID: PMC4179496  PMID: 21736778
Oil palm phenolics; CVD; Metabolic syndrome; Anti-tumour mechanisms

Results 1-8 (8)