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1.  Enhanced itaconic acid production in Aspergillus niger using genetic modification and medium optimization 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:57.
Aspergillus niger was selected as a host for producing itaconic acid due to its versatile and tolerant character in various growth environments, and its extremely high capacity of accumulating the precursor of itaconic acid: citric acid. Expressing the CAD gene from Aspergillus terreus opened the metabolic pathway towards itaconic acid in A. niger. In order to increase the production level, we continued by modifying its genome and optimizing cultivation media.
Based on the results of previous transcriptomics studies and research from other groups, two genes : gpdA encoding the glyceraldehyde −3-dehydrogenase (GPD) and hbd1 encoding a flavohemoglobin domain (HBD) were overexpressed in A. niger. Besides, new media were designed based on a reference medium for A. terreus. To analyze large numbers of cultures, we developed an approach for screening both fungal transformants and various media in 96-well micro-titer plates. The hbd1 transformants (HBD 2.2/2.5) did not improve itaconic acid titer while the gpdA transformant (GPD 4.3) decreased the itaconic acid production. Using 20 different media, copper was discovered to have a positive influence on itaconic acid production. Effects observed in the micro-titer plate screening were confirmed in controlled batch fermentation.
The performance of gpdA and hbd1 transformants was found not to be beneficial for itaconic acid production using the tested cultivation conditions. Medium optimization showed that, copper was positively correlated with improved itaconic acid production. Interestingly, the optimal conditions for itaconic acid clearly differ from conditions optimal for citric- and oxalic acid production.
PMCID: PMC3472327  PMID: 22925689
2.  Heme biosynthesis and its regulation: towards understanding and improvement of heme biosynthesis in filamentous fungi 
Heme biosynthesis in fungal host strains has acquired considerable interest in relation to the production of secreted heme-containing peroxidases. Class II peroxidase enzymes have been suggested as eco-friendly replacements of polluting chemical processes in industry. These peroxidases are naturally produced in small amounts by basidiomycetes. Filamentous fungi like Aspergillus sp. are considered as suitable hosts for protein production due to their high capacity of protein secretion. For the purpose of peroxidase production, heme is considered a putative limiting factor. However, heme addition is not appropriate in large-scale production processes due to its high hydrophobicity and cost price. The preferred situation in order to overcome the limiting effect of heme would be to increase intracellular heme levels. This requires a thorough insight into the biosynthetic pathway and its regulation. In this review, the heme biosynthetic pathway is discussed with regards to synthesis, regulation, and transport. Although the heme biosynthetic pathway is a highly conserved and tightly regulated pathway, the mode of regulation does not appear to be conserved among eukaryotes. However, common factors like feedback inhibition and regulation by heme, iron, and oxygen appear to be involved in regulation of the heme biosynthesis pathway in most organisms. Therefore, they are the initial targets to be investigated in Aspergillus niger.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-011-3391-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3136693  PMID: 21687966
Heme biosynthesis; Heme regulation; Peroxidase; Aspergillus; Protein production; Intracellular heme
3.  An inventory of the Aspergillus niger secretome by combining in silico predictions with shotgun proteomics data 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:584.
The ecological niche occupied by a fungal species, its pathogenicity and its usefulness as a microbial cell factory to a large degree depends on its secretome. Protein secretion usually requires the presence of a N-terminal signal peptide (SP) and by scanning for this feature using available highly accurate SP-prediction tools, the fraction of potentially secreted proteins can be directly predicted. However, prediction of a SP does not guarantee that the protein is actually secreted and current in silico prediction methods suffer from gene-model errors introduced during genome annotation.
A majority rule based classifier that also evaluates signal peptide predictions from the best homologs of three neighbouring Aspergillus species was developed to create an improved list of potential signal peptide containing proteins encoded by the Aspergillus niger genome. As a complement to these in silico predictions, the secretome associated with growth and upon carbon source depletion was determined using a shotgun proteomics approach. Overall, some 200 proteins with a predicted signal peptide were identified to be secreted proteins. Concordant changes in the secretome state were observed as a response to changes in growth/culture conditions. Additionally, two proteins secreted via a non-classical route operating in A. niger were identified.
We were able to improve the in silico inventory of A. niger secretory proteins by combining different gene-model predictions from neighbouring Aspergilli and thereby avoiding prediction conflicts associated with inaccurate gene-models. The expected accuracy of signal peptide prediction for proteins that lack homologous sequences in the proteomes of related species is 85%. An experimental validation of the predicted proteome confirmed in silico predictions.
PMCID: PMC3091731  PMID: 20959013
4.  Microbial renewable feedstock utilization 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(5):359-366.
Increasingly lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysates are used as the feedstock for industrial fermentations. These biomass hydrolysates consist of complex mixtures of different fermentable sugars, but also contain inhibitors and salts that affect the performance of the product-generating microbes. The performance of six industrially relevant microorganisms, i.e., two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Corynebacterium glutamicum), two yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Pichia stipitis) and two fungi (Aspergillus niger and Trichoderma reesei) were compared for their ability to utilize and grow on different feedstock hydrolysates (corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse and willow wood). Moreover, the ability of the selected hosts to utilize waste glycerol from the biodiesel industry was evaluated. P. stipitis and A. niger were found to be the most versatile and C. glutamicum, and S. cerevisiae were shown to be the least adapted to renewable feedstocks. Clear differences in the utilization of the more abundant carbon sources in these feedstocks were observed between the different species. Moreover, in a species-specific way the production of various metabolites, in particular polyols, alcohols and organic acids was observed during fermentation. Based on the results obtained we conclude that a substrate-oriented instead of the more commonly used product oriented approach towards the selection of a microbial production host will avoid the requirement for extensive metabolic engineering. Instead of introducing multiple substrate utilization and detoxification routes to efficiently utilize lignocellulosic hydrolysates only one biosynthesis route forming the product of interest has to be engineered.
PMCID: PMC3037588  PMID: 21326838
second generation feedstock; bioprocessing; filamentous fungi; industrial biotechnology
5.  Microbial production host selection for converting second-generation feedstocks into bioproducts 
Increasingly lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysates are used as the feedstock for industrial fermentations. These biomass hydrolysates are complex mixtures of different fermentable sugars, but also inhibitors and salts that affect the performance of the microbial production host. The performance of six industrially relevant microorganisms, i.e. two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Corynebacterium glutamicum), two yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Pichia stipitis) and two fungi (Aspergillus niger and Trichoderma reesei) were compared for their (i) ability to utilize monosaccharides present in lignocellulosic hydrolysates, (ii) resistance against inhibitors present in lignocellulosic hydrolysates, (iii) their ability to utilize and grow on different feedstock hydrolysates (corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse and willow wood). The feedstock hydrolysates were generated in two manners: (i) thermal pretreatment under mild acid conditions followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and (ii) a non-enzymatic method in which the lignocellulosic biomass is pretreated and hydrolyzed by concentrated sulfuric acid. Moreover, the ability of the selected hosts to utilize waste glycerol from the biodiesel industry was evaluated.
Large differences in the performance of the six tested microbial production hosts were observed. Carbon source versatility and inhibitor resistance were the major discriminators between the performances of these microorganisms. Surprisingly all 6 organisms performed relatively well on pretreated crude feedstocks. P. stipitis and A. niger were found to give the overall best performance C. glutamicum and S. cerevisiae were shown to be the least adapted to renewable feedstocks.
Based on the results obtained we conclude that a substrate oriented instead of the more commonly used product oriented approach towards the selection of a microbial production host will avoid the requirement for extensive metabolic engineering. Instead of introducing multiple substrate utilization and detoxification routes to efficiently utilize lignocellulosic hydrolysates only one biosynthesis route forming the product of interest has to be engineered.
PMCID: PMC2795742  PMID: 19958560
6.  Aspergillus niger genome-wide analysis reveals a large number of novel alpha-glucan acting enzymes with unexpected expression profiles 
Molecular Genetics and Genomics   2008;279(6):545-561.
The filamentous ascomycete Aspergillus niger is well known for its ability to produce a large variety of enzymes for the degradation of plant polysaccharide material. A major carbon and energy source for this soil fungus is starch, which can be degraded by the concerted action of α-amylase, glucoamylase and α-glucosidase enzymes, members of the glycoside hydrolase (GH) families 13, 15 and 31, respectively. In this study we have combined analysis of the genome sequence of A. niger CBS 513.88 with microarray experiments to identify novel enzymes from these families and to predict their physiological functions. We have identified 17 previously unknown family GH13, 15 and 31 enzymes in the A. niger genome, all of which have orthologues in other aspergilli. Only two of the newly identified enzymes, a putative α-glucosidase (AgdB) and an α-amylase (AmyC), were predicted to play a role in starch degradation. The expression of the majority of the genes identified was not induced by maltose as carbon source, and not dependent on the presence of AmyR, the transcriptional regulator for starch degrading enzymes. The possible physiological functions of the other predicted family GH13, GH15 and GH31 enzymes, including intracellular enzymes and cell wall associated proteins, in alternative α-glucan modifying processes are discussed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00438-008-0332-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2413074  PMID: 18320228
Aspergillus niger; Alpha-amylase; Alpha-glucosidase; Glucoamylase; AmyR; Starch; Maltose; Alpha-glucan; Cell wall;  Starch-binding domain
7.  Expression of human α1-proteinase inhibitor in Aspergillus niger 
Human α1-proteinase inhibitor (α1-PI), also known as antitrypsin, is the most abundant serine protease inhibitor (serpin) in plasma. Its deficiency is associated with development of progressive, ultimately fatal emphysema. Currently in the United States, α1-PI is available for replacement therapy as an FDA licensed plasma-derived (pd) product. However, the plasma source itself is limited; moreover, even with efficient viral inactivation steps used in manufacture of plasma products, the risk of contamination from emerging viruses may still exist. Therefore, recombinant α1-PI (r-α1-PI) could provide an attractive alternative. Although r-α1-PI has been produced in several hosts, protein stability in vitro and rapid clearance from the circulation have been major issues, primarily due to absent or altered glycosylation.
We have explored the possibility of expressing the gene for human α1-PI in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger (A. niger), a system reported to be capable of providing more "mammalian-like" glycosylation patterns to secretable proteins than commonly used yeast hosts. Our expression strategy was based on fusion of α1-PI with a strongly expressed, secreted leader protein (glucoamylase G2), separated by dibasic processing site (N-V-I-S-K-R) that provides in vivo cleavage. SDS-PAGE, Western blot, ELISA, and α1-PI activity assays enabled us to select the transformant(s) secreting a biologically active glycosylated r-α1-PI with yields of up to 12 mg/L. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) analysis further confirmed that molecular mass of the r-α1-PI was similar to that of the pd-α1-PI. In vitro stability of the r-α1-PI from A. niger was tested in comparison with pd-α1-PI reference and non-glycosylated human r-α1-PI from E. coli.
We examined the suitability of the filamentous fungus A. niger for the expression of the human gene for α1-PI, a medium size glycoprotein of high therapeutic value. The heterologous expression of the human gene for α1-PI in A. niger was successfully achieved to produce the secreted mature human r-α1-PI in A. niger as a biologically active glycosylated protein with improved stability and with yields of up to 12 mg/L in shake-flask growth.
PMCID: PMC2186354  PMID: 17967194
8.  Construction of Engineered Bifunctional Enzymes and Their Overproduction in Aspergillus niger for Improved Enzymatic Tools To Degrade Agricultural By-Products 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(12):8132-8140.
Two chimeric enzymes, FLX and FLXLC, were designed and successfully overproduced in Aspergillus niger. FLX construct is composed of the sequences encoding the feruloyl esterase A (FAEA) fused to the endoxylanase B (XYNB) of A. niger. A C-terminal carbohydrate-binding module (CBM family 1) was grafted to FLX, generating the second hybrid enzyme, FLXLC. Between each partner, a hyperglycosylated linker was included to stabilize the constructs. Hybrid proteins were purified to homogeneity, and molecular masses were estimated to be 72 and 97 kDa for FLX and FLXLC, respectively. Integrity of hybrid enzymes was checked by immunodetection that showed a single form by using antibodies raised against FAEA and polyhistidine tag. Physicochemical properties of each catalytic module of the bifunctional enzymes corresponded to those of the free enzymes. In addition, we verified that FLXLC exhibited an affinity for microcrystalline cellulose (Avicel) with binding parameters corresponding to a Kd of 9.9 × 10−8 M for the dissociation constant and 0.98 μmol/g Avicel for the binding capacity. Both bifunctional enzymes were investigated for their capacity to release ferulic acid from natural substrates: corn and wheat brans. Compared to free enzymes FAEA and XYNB, a higher synergistic effect was obtained by using FLX and FLXLC for both substrates. Moreover, the release of ferulic acid from corn bran was increased by using FLXLC rather than FLX. This result confirms a positive role of the CBM. In conclusion, these results demonstrated that the fusion of naturally free cell wall hydrolases and an A. niger-derived CBM onto bifunctional enzymes enables the increase of the synergistic effect on the degradation of complex substrates.
PMCID: PMC1317392  PMID: 16332795
9.  Design and Production in Aspergillus niger of a Chimeric Protein Associating a Fungal Feruloyl Esterase and a Clostridial Dockerin Domain 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):6984-6991.
A chimeric enzyme associating feruloyl esterase A (FAEA) from Aspergillus niger and dockerin from Clostridium thermocellum was produced in A. niger. A completely truncated form was produced when the dockerin domain was located downstream of the FAEA (FAEA-Doc), whereas no chimeric protein was produced when the bacterial dockerin domain was located upstream of the FAEA (Doc-FAEA). Northern blot analysis showed similar transcript levels for the two constructs, indicating a posttranscriptional bottleneck for Doc-FAEA production. The sequence encoding the first 514 amino acids from A. niger glucoamylase and a dibasic proteolytic processing site (kex-2) were fused upstream of the Doc-FAEA sequence. By using this fusion strategy, the esterase activity found in the extracellular medium was 20-fold-higher than that of the wild-type reference strain, and the production yield was estimated to be about 100 mg of chimeric protein/liter. Intracellular and extracellular production was analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, dockerin-cohesin interaction assays, and Western blotting. Labeled cohesins detected an intact extracellular Doc-FAEA of about 43 kDa and a cleaved-off dockerin domain of about 8 kDa. In addition, an intracellular 120-kDa protein was recognized by using labeled cohesins and antibodies raised against FAEA. This protein corresponded to the unprocessed Doc-FAEA form fused to glucoamylase. In conclusion, these results indicated that translational fusion to glucoamylase improved the secretion efficiency of a chimeric Doc-FAEA protein and allowed production of the first functional fungal enzyme joined to a bacterial dockerin.
PMCID: PMC535179  PMID: 15574891
10.  The production of antibody fragments and antibody fusion proteins by yeasts and filamentous fungi 
In this review we will focus on the current status and views concerning the production of antibody fragments and antibody fusion proteins by yeasts and filamentous fungi. We will focus on single-chain antibody fragment production (scFv and VHH) by these lower eukaryotes and the possible applications of these proteins. Also the coupling of fragments to relevant enzymes or other components will be discussed. As an example of the fusion protein strategy, the 'magic bullet' approach for industrial applications, will be highlighted.
PMCID: PMC149433  PMID: 12605725
11.  Improving the Pathogenicity of a Nematode-Trapping Fungus by Genetic Engineering of a Subtilisin with Nematotoxic Activity 
Nematophagous fungi are soil-living fungi that are used as biological control agents of plant and animal parasitic nematodes. Their potential could be improved by genetic engineering, but the lack of information about the molecular background of the infection has precluded this development. In this paper we report that a subtilisin-like extracellular serine protease designated PII is an important pathogenicity factor in the common nematode-trapping fungus Arthrobotrys oligospora. The transcript of PII was not detected during the early stages of infection (adhesion and penetration), but high levels were expressed concurrent with the killing and colonization of the nematode. Disruption of the PII gene by homologous recombination had a limited effect on the pathogenicity of the fungus. However, mutants containing additional copies of the PII gene developed a higher number of infection structures and had an increased speed of capturing and killing nematodes compared to the wild type. The paralyzing activity of PII was verified by demonstrating that a heterologous-produced PII (in Aspergillus niger) had a nematotoxic activity when added to free-living nematodes. The toxic activity of PII was significantly higher than that of other commercially available serine proteases. This is the first report showing that genetic engineering can be used to improve the pathogenicity of a nematode-trapping fungus. In the future it should be possible to express recombinant subtilisins with nematicidal activity in other organisms that are present in the habitat of parasitic nematodes (e.g., host plant).
PMCID: PMC126817  PMID: 12089022
12.  Calnexin Overexpression Increases Manganese Peroxidase Production in Aspergillus niger 
Heme-containing peroxidases from white rot basidiomycetes, in contrast to most proteins of fungal origin, are poorly produced in industrial filamentous fungal strains. Factors limiting peroxidase production are believed to operate at the posttranslational level. In particular, insufficient availability of the prosthetic group which is required for peroxidase biosynthesis has been proposed to be an important bottleneck. In this work, we analyzed the role of two components of the secretion pathway, the chaperones calnexin and binding protein (BiP), in the production of a fungal peroxidase. Expression of the Phanerochaete chrysosporium manganese peroxidase (MnP) in Aspergillus niger resulted in an increase in the expression level of the clxA and bipA genes. In a heme-supplemented medium, where MnP was shown to be overproduced to higher levels, induction of clxA and bipA was also higher. Overexpression of these two chaperones in an MnP-producing strain was analyzed for its effect on MnP production. Whereas bipA overexpression seriously reduced MnP production, overexpression of calnexin resulted in a four- to fivefold increase in the extracellular MnP levels. However, when additional heme was provided in the culture medium, calnexin overexpression had no synergistic effect on MnP production. The possible function of these two chaperones in MnP maturation and production is discussed.
PMCID: PMC126695  PMID: 11823227
13.  Studies on the Production of Fungal Peroxidases in Aspergillus niger 
To get insight into the limiting factors existing for the efficient production of fungal peroxidase in filamentous fungi, the expression of the Phanerochaete chrysosporium lignin peroxidase H8 (lipA) and manganese peroxidase (MnP) H4 (mnp1) genes in Aspergillus niger has been studied. For this purpose, a protease-deficient A. niger strain and different expression cassettes have been used. Northern blotting experiments indicated high steady-state mRNA levels for the recombinant genes. Manganese peroxidase was secreted into the culture medium as an active protein. The recombinant protein showed specific activity and a spectrum profile similar to those of the native enzyme, was correctly processed at its N terminus, and had a slightly lower mobility on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Recombinant MnP production could be increased up to 100 mg/liter upon hemoglobin supplementation of the culture medium. Lignin peroxidase was also secreted into the extracellular medium, although the protein was not active, presumably due to incorrect processing of the secreted enzyme. Expression of the lipA and mnp1 genes fused to the A. niger glucoamylase gene did not result in improved production yields.
PMCID: PMC92105  PMID: 10877800
14.  Characterization of a Foldase, Protein Disulfide Isomerase A, in the Protein Secretory Pathway of Aspergillus niger 
Protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) is important in assisting the folding and maturation of secretory proteins in eukaryotes. A gene, pdiA, encoding PDIA was previously isolated from Aspergillus niger, and we report its functional characterization here. Functional analysis of PDIA showed that it catalyzes the refolding of denatured and reduced RNase A. pdiA also complemented PDI function in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae Δpdi1 mutant in a yeast-based killer toxin assay. Levels of pdiA mRNA and PDIA protein were raised by the accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum. This response of pdiA mRNA levels was slower and lower in magnitude than that of A. niger bipA, suggesting that the induction of pdiA is not part of the primary stress response. An increased level of pdiA transcripts was also observed in two A. niger strains overproducing a heterologous protein, hen egg white lysozyme (HEWL). Although overexpression of PDI has been successful in increasing yields of some heterologous proteins in S. cerevisiae, overexpression of PDIA did not increase secreted yields of HEWL in A. niger, suggesting that PDIA itself is not limiting for secretion of this protein. Downregulation of pdiA by antisense mRNA reduced the levels of microsomal PDIA activity by up to 50%, lowered the level of PDIA as judged by Western blots, and lowered the secreted levels of glucoamylase by 60 to 70%.
PMCID: PMC91895  PMID: 10653750

Results 1-14 (14)