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  • Kun, Roland; Gomes, Ana Carolina S.; Hilden, Sari Kristiina; Salazar Cerezo, Sonia; Mäkelä, Miia Riitta; de Vries, Ronald (2019)
    Fungal strain engineering is commonly used in many areas of biotechnology, including the production of plant biomass degrading enzymes. Its aim varies from the production of specific enzymes to overall increased enzyme production levels and modification of the composition of the enzyme set that is produced by the fungus. Strain engineering involves a diverse range of methodologies, including classical mutagenesis, genetic engineering and genome editing. In this review, the main approaches for strain engineering of filamentous fungi in the field of plant biomass degradation will be discussed, including recent and not yet implemented methods, such as CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and adaptive evolution.
  • Gruben, Birgit S.; Mäkelä, Miia R.; Kowalczyk, Joanna E.; Zhou, Miaomiao; Benoit-Gelber, Isabelle; De Vries, Ronald P. (2017)
    Background: The Aspergillus niger genome contains a large repertoire of genes encoding carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) that are targeted to plant polysaccharide degradation enabling A. niger to grow on a wide range of plant biomass substrates. Which genes need to be activated in certain environmental conditions depends on the composition of the available substrate. Previous studies have demonstrated the involvement of a number of transcriptional regulators in plant biomass degradation and have identified sets of target genes for each regulator. In this study, a broad transcriptional analysis was performed of the A. niger genes encoding (putative) plant polysaccharide degrading enzymes. Microarray data focusing on the initial response of A. niger to the presence of plant biomass related carbon sources were analyzed of a wild-type strain N402 that was grown on a large range of carbon sources and of the regulatory mutant strains Delta xlnR, Delta araR, Delta amyR, Delta rhaR and Delta galX that were grown on their specific inducing compounds. Results: The cluster analysis of the expression data revealed several groups of co-regulated genes, which goes beyond the traditionally described co-regulated gene sets. Additional putative target genes of the selected regulators were identified, based on their expression profile. Notably, in several cases the expression profile puts questions on the function assignment of uncharacterized genes that was based on homology searches, highlighting the need for more extensive biochemical studies into the substrate specificity of enzymes encoded by these non-characterized genes. The data also revealed sets of genes that were upregulated in the regulatory mutants, suggesting interaction between the regulatory systems and a therefore even more complex overall regulatory network than has been reported so far. Conclusions: Expression profiling on a large number of substrates provides better insight in the complex regulatory systems that drive the conversion of plant biomass by fungi. In addition, the data provides additional evidence in favor of and against the similarity-based functions assigned to uncharacterized genes.
  • Linares, Nancy Coconi; Di Falco, Marcos; Benoit-Gelber, Isabelle; Gruben, Birgit S.; Peng, Mao; Tsang, Adrian; Mäkelä, Miia R.; de Vries, Ronald P. (2019)
    Guar gum consists mainly of galactomannan and constitutes the endosperm of guar seeds that acts as a reserve polysaccharide for germination. Due to its molecular structure and physical properties, this biopolymer has been considered as one of the most important and widely used gums in industry. However, for many of these applications this (hemi-) cellulosic structure needs to be modified or (partially) depolymerized in order to customize and improve its physicochemical properties. In this study, transcriptome, exoproteome and enzyme activity analyses were employed to decipher the complete enzymatic arsenal for guar gum depolymerization by Aspergillus niger. This multi-omic analysis revealed a set of 46 genes encoding carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) responding to the presence of guar gum, including CAZymes not only with preferred activity towards galactomannan, but also towards (arabino-) xylan, cellulose, starch and pectin, likely due to trace components in guar gum. This demonstrates that the purity of substrates has a strong effect on the resulting enzyme mixture produced by A. niger and probably by other fungi as well, which has significant implications for the commercial production of fungal enzyme cocktails.