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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Aug 15;82(17):5174-85. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00713-16. Print 2016 Sep 1.

Activating Intrinsic Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes of the Smut Fungus Ustilago maydis for the Degradation of Plant Cell Wall Components.

Author information

  • 1Institute of Applied Microbiology (iAMB), Aachen Biology and Biotechnology (ABBt), RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany.
  • 2Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences, Institute for Microbiology, Düsseldorf, Germany Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany.
  • 3Institute of Applied Microbiology (iAMB), Aachen Biology and Biotechnology (ABBt), RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany nick.wierckx@rwth-aachen.de kerstin.schipper@uni-duesseldorf.de.
  • 4Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences, Institute for Microbiology, Düsseldorf, Germany Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany nick.wierckx@rwth-aachen.de kerstin.schipper@uni-duesseldorf.de.

Abstract

The microbial conversion of plant biomass to valuable products in a consolidated bioprocess could greatly increase the ecologic and economic impact of a biorefinery. Current strategies for hydrolyzing plant material mostly rely on the external application of carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes). Alternatively, production organisms can be engineered to secrete CAZymes to reduce the reliance on externally added enzymes. Plant-pathogenic fungi have a vast repertoire of hydrolytic enzymes to sustain their lifestyle, but expression of the corresponding genes is usually highly regulated and restricted to the pathogenic phase. Here, we present a new strategy in using the biotrophic smut fungus Ustilago maydis for the degradation of plant cell wall components by activating its intrinsic enzyme potential during axenic growth. This fungal model organism is fully equipped with hydrolytic enzymes, and moreover, it naturally produces value-added substances, such as organic acids and biosurfactants. To achieve the deregulated expression of hydrolytic enzymes during the industrially relevant yeast-like growth in axenic culture, the native promoters of the respective genes were replaced by constitutively active synthetic promoters. This led to an enhanced conversion of xylan, cellobiose, and carboxymethyl cellulose to fermentable sugars. Moreover, a combination of strains with activated endoglucanase and β-glucanase increased the release of glucose from carboxymethyl cellulose and regenerated amorphous cellulose, suggesting that mixed cultivations could be a means for degrading more complex substrates in the future. In summary, this proof of principle demonstrates the potential applicability of activating the expression of native CAZymes from phytopathogens in a biocatalytic process.

IMPORTANCE:

This study describes basic experiments that aim at the degradation of plant cell wall components by the smut fungus Ustilago maydis As a plant pathogen, this fungus contains a set of lignocellulose-degrading enzymes that may be suited for biomass degradation. However, its hydrolytic enzymes are specifically expressed only during plant infection. Here, we provide the proof of principle that these intrinsic enzymes can be synthetically activated during the industrially relevant yeast-like growth. The fungus is known to naturally synthesize valuable compounds, such as itaconate or glycolipids. Therefore, it could be suited for use in a consolidated bioprocess in which more complex and natural substrates are simultaneously converted to fermentable sugars and to value-added compounds in the future.

PMID:
27316952
PMCID:
PMC4988183
[Available on 2017-02-15]
DOI:
10.1128/AEM.00713-16
[PubMed - in process]
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