Ethanol production by recombinant and natural xylose-utilising yeasts

University dissertation from Dep. Applied Microbiology, PO Box 124, 221 00 Lund

Abstract: The xylose-fermenting capacity of recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae carrying XYL1 and XYL2 from Pichia stipitis, which encode xylose reductase (XR) and xylitol dehydrogenase (XDH), respectively, is poor due to high xylitol formation. Whereas, P. stipitis exhibits high ethanol yield on xylose, the tolerance towards inhibitors in the lignocellulosic hydrolysate is low. A recombinant strain possessing the advantageous characteristics of both S. cerevisiae and P. stipitis would constitute a biocatalyst capable of efficient ethanol production from lignocellulosic hydrolysate. In the work presented in this thesis, factors influencing xylose fermentation in recombinant S. cerevisiae and in the natural xylose-fermenting yeast P. stipitis have been identified and investigated. Anaerobic xylulose fermentation was compared in strains of Zygosaccharomyces and S. cerevisiae, mutants and wild-type strains, to identify host strain background and genetic modifications beneficial for xylose fermentation. The greatest positive effect was found for over-expression of the gene XKS1 for the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) enzyme xylulokinase (XK), which increased the ethanol yield by almost 85%. The Zygosaccharomyces strains tested formed large amounts of polyols, making them unsuitable as host strains. The XR/XDH/XK ratio was found to determine whether carbon accumulated in a xylitol pool or was further utilised for ethanol production in recombinant xylose-utilising S. cerevisiae. Both simulations, based on a kinetic model, and anaerobic xylose cultivation experiments implied that a 1:10:4 relation was optimal in minimising xylitol formation. A stable, xylose-utilising strain, S. cerevisiae TMB 3001, was constructed by chromosomal integration of the XYL1 and XYL2 genes from P. stipitis. The strain was stable for more than forty generations in continuous fermentation. The metabolic fluxes during xylose metabolism were quantitatively analysed and anaerobic ethanol formation from xylose in recombinant S. cerevisiae was demonstrated for the first time. The xylose uptake rate increased with increasing xylose concentration in the feed. However, with a feed of 15 g/l xylose and 5 g/l glucose, the xylose flux was 2.2 times lower than the glucose flux, indicating that transport limits the xylose flux. The role of mitochondria in ethanol formation from xylose was investigated using cells of recombinant xylose-utilising S. cerevisiae with two different respiratory capacities and cells from P. stipitis grown under conditions of optimal ethanol formation. Different inhibitors were used either to inhibit the electron transport chain, or to inhibit the tricarboxylic acid cycle while not disturbing the electron transport chain. The response to the inhibitors differed significantly for glucose and xylose and the effect was more pronounced for S. cerevisiae. The results indicate that mitochondria play a significant role in the maintenance of the cytoplasmic redox balance during xylose fermentation, through the action of cytoplasmically directed NADH dehydrogenase activity. Thus, more carbon was directed towards ethanol in chemostat cultivations of xylose/glucose mixtures by S. cerevisiae TMB 3001, in the presence of low amounts of oxygen. P. stipitis possesses a second, cyanide-insensitive terminal oxidase, the alternative oxidase, which seems to be of particular importance for efficient ethanol formation from xylose.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.