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Journal: Microbial cell factories


Biohydrogen production (BHP) can be achieved by direct or indirect biophotolysis, photo-fermentation and dark fermentation, whereof only the latter does not require the input of light energy. Our motivation to compile this review was to quantify and comprehensively report strains and process performance of dark fermentative BHP. This review summarizes the work done on pure and defined co-culture dark fermentative BHP since the year 1901. Qualitative growth characteristics and quantitative normalized results of H2 production for more than 2000 conditions are presented in a normalized and therefore comparable format to the scientific community.Statistically based evidence shows that thermophilic strains comprise high substrate conversion efficiency, but mesophilic strains achieve high volumetric productivity. Moreover, microbes of Thermoanaerobacterales (Family III) have to be preferred when aiming to achieve high substrate conversion efficiency in comparison to the families Clostridiaceae and Enterobacteriaceae. The limited number of results available on dark fermentative BHP from fed-batch cultivations indicates the yet underestimated potential of this bioprocessing application. A Design of Experiments strategy should be preferred for efficient bioprocess development and optimization of BHP aiming at improving medium, cultivation conditions and revealing inhibitory effects. This will enable comparing and optimizing strains and processes independent of initial conditions and scale.

Concepts: Anaerobic digestion, Motivation, Fermentation, Fermentative hydrogen production, Dark fermentation, Biohydrogen, Photofermentation


BACKGROUND: Bacterial cell surface-associated polysaccharides are involved in the interactions of bacteria with their environment and play an important role in the communication between pathogenic bacteria and their host organisms. Cell surface polysaccharides of probiotic species are far less well described. Therefore, improved knowledge on these molecules is potentially of great importance to understand the strain-specific and proposed beneficial modes of probiotic action. RESULTS: The Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 genome encodes 4 clusters of genes that are associated with surface polysaccharide production. Two of these clusters appear to encode all functions required for capsular polysaccharide formation (cps2A-J and cps4A-J), while the remaining clusters are predicted to lack genes encoding chain-length control functions and a priming glycosyl-transferase (cps1A-I and cps3A-J). We constructed L. plantarum WCFS1 gene deletion mutants that lack individual (Deltacps1A-I, Deltacps2A-J, Deltacps3A-J and Deltacps4A-J) or combinations of cps clusters (Deltacps1A-3J and Deltacps1A-3I, Deltacps4A-J) and assessed the genome wide impact of these mutations by transcriptome analysis. The cps cluster deletions influenced the expression of variable gene sets in the individual cps cluster mutants, but also considerable numbers of up- and down-regulated genes were shared between mutants in cps cluster 1 and 2, as well as between mutant in cps clusters 3 and 4. Additionally, the composition of overall cell surface polysaccharide fractions was altered in each mutant strain, implying that despite the apparent incompleteness of cps1A-I and cps3A-J, all clusters are active and functional in L. plantarum. The Deltacps1A-I strain produced surface polysaccharides in equal amounts as compared to the wild-type strain, while the polysaccharides were characterized by a reduced molar mass and the lack of rhamnose. The mutants that lacked functional copies of cps2A-J, cps3A-J or cps4A-J produced decreased levels of surface polysaccharides, whereas the molar mass and the composition of polysaccharides was not affected by these cluster mutations. In the quadruple mutant, the amount of surface polysaccharides was strongly reduced. The impact of the cps cluster mutations on toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated human nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB activation in host cells was evaluated using a TLR2 reporter cell line. In comparison to a L. plantarum wild-type derivative, TLR2 activation remained unaffected by the Deltacps1A-I and Deltacps3A-J mutants but appeared slightly increased after stimulation with the Deltacps2A-J and Deltacps4A-J mutants, while the Deltacps1A-3J and Deltacps1A-3J, Deltacps4A-J mutants elicited the strongest responses and clearly displayed enhanced TLR2 signaling. CONCLUSIONS: Our study reveals that modulation of surface glycan characteristics in L. plantarum highlights the role of these molecules in shielding of cell envelope embedded host receptor ligands. Although the apparently complete cps clusters (cps2A-J and cps4A-J) contributed individually to this shielding, the removal of all cps clusters led to the strongest signaling enhancement. Our findings provide new insights into cell surface glycan biosynthesis in L. plantarum, which bears relevance in the context of host-cell signaling by probiotic bacteria.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Microbiology, Cell wall, Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus plantarum


BACKGROUND: Hydroxycinnamates (HCs) are mainly produced in plants. Caffeic acid (CA), p-coumaric acid (PA), ferulic acid (FA) and sinapic acid (SA) are members of the HC family. The consumption of HC by human might prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. The solubility of HCs is increased through thioester conjugation to various compounds such as quinic acid, shikimic acid, malic acid, anthranilic acid, and glycerol. Although hydroxycinnamate conjugates can be obtained from diverse plant sources such as coffee, tomato, potato, apple, and sweet potato, some parts of the world have limited availability to these compounds. Thus, there is growing interest in producing HC conjugates as nutraceutical supplements. RESULTS: Hydroxycinnamoyl transferases (HCTs) including hydroxycinnamate-CoA shikimate transferase (HST) and hydroxycinnamate-CoA quinate transferase (HQT) were co-expressed with 4-coumarateCoA:ligase (4CL) in Escherichia coli cultured in media supplemented with HCs. Two hydroxycinnamoyl conjugates, p-coumaroyl shikimates and chlorogenic acid, were thereby synthesized. Total 29.1 mg/L of four different p-coumaroyl shikimates (3-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 4-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,4-di p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,5-di p-coumaroyl shikimate, and 4,5-di p-coumaroyl shikimate) was obtained and 16 mg/L of chlorogenic acid was synthesized in the wild type E. coli strain. To increase the concentration of endogenous acceptor substrates such as shikimate and quinate, the shikimate pathway in E. coli was engineered. A E. coli aroL and aroK gene were mutated and the resulting mutants were used for the production of p-coumaroyl shikimate. An E. coli aroD mutant was used for the production of chlorogenic acid. We also optimized the vector and cell concentration optimization. CONCLUSIONS: To produce p-coumaroyl-shikimates and chlorogenic acid in E. coli, several E. coli mutants (an aroD mutant for chlorogenic acid production; an aroL, aroK, and aroKL mutant for p-coumaroyl-shikimates production) were made and each mutant was tested using an optimized construct. Using this strategy, we produced 235 mg/L of p-coumaroyl-shikimates and 450 mg/L of chlorogenic acid.

Concepts: Escherichia coli, Caffeic acid, Carboxylic acids, Ferulic acid, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Chlorogenic acid, Quinic acid, Cyclitols


The Editors of Microbial Cell Factories would like to thank all our Reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 11 (2012).

Concepts: Microbial fuel cell, Newcastle upon Tyne, Editors


BACKGROUND: Phosphatidic acid phosphatase (PAP, EC catalyzes the dephosphorylation of phosphatidate yielding diacylglycerol (DAG), the lipid precursor for triacylglycerol (TAG) biosynthesis. Despite the importance of PAP activity in TAG producing bacteria, studies to establish its role in lipid metabolism have been so far restricted only to eukaryotes. Considering the increasing interest of bacterial TAG as a potential source of raw material for biofuel production, we have focused our studies on the identification and physiological characterization of the putative PAP present in the TAG producing bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor. RESULTS: We have identified two S. coelicolor genes, named lppalpha (SCO1102) and lppbeta (SCO1753), encoding for functional PAP proteins. Both enzymes mediate, at least in part, the formation of DAG for neutral lipid biosynthesis. Heterologous expression of lppalpha and lppbeta genes in E. coli resulted in enhanced PAP activity in the membrane fractions of the recombinant strains and concomitantly in higher levels of DAG. In addition, the expression of these genes in yeast complemented the temperature-sensitive growth phenotype of the PAP deficient strain GHY58 (dpp1lpp1pah1). In S. coelicolor, disruption of either lppalpha or lppbeta had no effect on TAG accumulation; however, the simultaneous mutation of both genes provoked a drastic reduction in de novo TAG biosynthesis as well as in total TAG content. Consistently, overexpression of Lppalpha and Lppbeta in the wild type strain of S. coelicolor led to a significant increase in TAG production. CONCLUSIONS: The present study describes the identification of PAP enzymes in bacteria and provides further insights on the genetic basis for prokaryotic oiliness. Furthermore, this finding completes the whole set of enzymes required for de novo TAG biosynthesis pathway in S. coelicolor. Remarkably, the overexpression of these PAPs in Streptomyces bacteria contributes to a higher productivity of this single cell oil. Altogether, these results provide new elements and tools for future cell engineering for next-generation biofuels production.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell, Bacteria, Metabolism, Enzyme, Streptomyces


BACKGROUND: The Bacillus subtilis genome-reduced strain MGB874 exhibits enhanced production of exogenous extracellular enzymes under batch fermentation conditions. We predicted that deletion of the gene for RocG, a bi-functional protein that acts as a glutamate dehydrogenase and an indirect repressor of glutamate synthesis, would improve glutamate metabolism, leading to further increased enzyme production. However, deletion of rocG dramatically decreased production of the alkaline cellulase Egl-237 in strain MGB874 (strain 874[increment]rocG). RESULTS: Transcriptome analysis and cultivation profiles suggest that this phenomenon is attributable to impaired secretion of alkaline cellulase Egl-237 and nitrogen starvation, caused by decreased external pH and ammonium depletion, respectively. With NH3-pH auxostat fermentation, production of alkaline cellulase Egl-237 in strain 874[increment]rocG was increased, exceeding that in the wild-type-background strain 168[increment]rocG. Notably, in strain 874[increment]rocG, high enzyme productivity was observed throughout cultivation, possibly due to enhancement of metabolic flux from 2-oxoglutarate to glutamate and generation of metabolic energy through activation of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. The level of alkaline cellulase Egl-237 obtained corresponded to about 5.5 g l-1, the highest level reported so far. CONCLUSIONS: We found the highest levels of production of alkaline cellulase Egl-237 with the reduced-genome strain 874[increment]rocG and using the NH3-pH auxostat. Deletion of the glutamate dehydrogenase gene rocG enhanced enzyme production via a prolonged auxostat fermentation, possibly due to improved glutamate synthesis and enhanced generation of metabolism energy.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Amino acid, Metabolism, Enzyme, Nitrogen, Bacillus subtilis


Shikimic acid (SA) produced from the seeds of Chinese star anise (Illicium verum) is a key intermediate for the synthesis of neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), an anti-influenza drug. However, plants cannot deliver a stable supply of SA. To avoid the resulting shortages and price fluctuations, a stable source of affordable SA is required. Although recent achievements in metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli strains have significantly increased SA productivity, commonly-used plasmid-based expression systems are prone to genetic instability and require constant selective pressure to ensure plasmid maintenance. Cofactors also play an important role in the biosynthesis of different fermentation products. In this study, we first constructed an E. coli SA production strain that carries no plasmid or antibiotic marker. We then investigated the effect of endogenous NADPH availability on SA production.

Concepts: Genetics, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Anise, Japanese star anise, Star anise, Illicium, Shikimic acid


Amylases are used in various industrial processes and a key requirement for the efficiency of these processes is the use of enzymes with high catalytic activity at ambient temperature. Unfortunately, most amylases isolated from bacteria and filamentous fungi have optimal activity above 45 °C and low pH. For example, the most commonly used industrial glucoamylases, a type of amylase that degrades starch to glucose, are produced by Aspergillus strains displaying optimal activities at 45-60 °C. Thus, isolating new amylases with optimal activity at ambient temperature is essential for improving industrial processes. In this report, a glucoamylase secreted by the cold-adapted yeast Tetracladium sp. was isolated and biochemically characterized.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Enzyme, Fungus, Yeast, Starch, Amylase, Maltose


The biological degradation of plastics is a promising method to counter the increasing pollution of our planet with artificial polymers and to develop eco-friendly recycling strategies. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a thermoplast industrially produced from fossil feedstocks since the 1940s, nowadays prevalently used in bottle packaging and textiles. Although established industrial processes for PET recycling exist, large amounts of PET still end up in the environment-a significant portion thereof in the world’s oceans. In 2016, Ideonella sakaiensis, a bacterium possessing the ability to degrade PET and use the degradation products as a sole carbon source for growth, was isolated. I. sakaiensis expresses a key enzyme responsible for the breakdown of PET into monomers: PETase. This hydrolase might possess huge potential for the development of biological PET degradation and recycling processes as well as bioremediation approaches of environmental plastic waste.


De novo production of multi-hydroxylated diterpenoids is challenging due to the lack of efficient redox systems.

Concepts: Class I railroad