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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Aug;76(15):5079-87. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00454-10. Epub 2010 Jun 11.

Requirement of the type II secretion system for utilization of cellulosic substrates by Cellvibrio japonicus.

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DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 3552 Microbial Sciences Building, 1550 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Cellulosic biofuels represent a powerful alternative to petroleum but are currently limited by the inefficiencies of the conversion process. While gram-positive and fungal organisms have been widely explored as sources of cellulases and hemicellulases for biomass degradation, gram-negative organisms have received less experimental attention. We investigated the ability of Cellvibrio japonicus, a recently sequenced gram-negative cellulolytic bacterium, to degrade bioenergy-related feedstocks. Using a newly developed biomass medium, we showed that C. japonicus is able to utilize corn stover and switchgrass as sole sources of carbon and energy for growth. We also developed tools for directed gene disruptions in C. japonicus and used this system to construct a mutant in the gspD gene, which is predicted to encode a component of the type II secretion system. The gspD::pJGG1 mutant displayed a greater-than-2-fold decrease in endoglucanase secretion compared to wild-type C. japonicus. In addition, the mutant strain showed a pronounced growth defect in medium with biomass as a carbon source, yielding 100-fold fewer viable cells than the wild type. To test the potential of C. japonicus to undergo metabolic engineering, we constructed a strain able to produce small amounts of ethanol from biomass. Collectively, these data suggest that C. japonicus is a useful platform for biomass conversion and biofuel production.

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