Closely related fungi employ diverse enzymatic strategies to degrade plant biomass

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Biotechnology for Biofuels. 2015 Aug 01;8(1):107

Title: Closely related fungi employ diverse enzymatic strategies to degrade plant biomass
Author: Benoit, Isabelle; Culleton, Helena; Zhou, Miaomiao; DiFalco, Marcos; Aguilar-Osorio, Guillermo; Battaglia, Evy; Bouzid, Ourdia; Brouwer, Carlo P J M; El-Bushari, Hala B O; Coutinho, Pedro M; Gruben, Birgit S; Hildén, Kristiina S; Houbraken, Jos; Barboza, Luis A J; Levasseur, Anthony; Majoor, Eline; Mäkelä, Miia R; Narang, Hari-Mander; Trejo-Aguilar, Blanca; van den Brink, Joost; vanKuyk, Patricia A; Wiebenga, Ad; McKie, Vincent; McCleary, Barry; Tsang, Adrian; Henrissat, Bernard; de Vries, Ronald P
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2015-08-01
Abstract: Abstract Background Plant biomass is the major substrate for the production of biofuels and biochemicals, as well as food, textiles and other products. It is also the major carbon source for many fungi and enzymes of these fungi are essential for the depolymerization of plant polysaccharides in industrial processes. This is a highly complex process that involves a large number of extracellular enzymes as well as non-hydrolytic proteins, whose production in fungi is controlled by a set of transcriptional regulators. Aspergillus species form one of the best studied fungal genera in this field, and several species are used for the production of commercial enzyme cocktails. Results It is often assumed that related fungi use similar enzymatic approaches to degrade plant polysaccharides. In this study we have compared the genomic content and the enzymes produced by eight Aspergilli for the degradation of plant biomass. All tested Aspergilli have a similar genomic potential to degrade plant biomass, with the exception of A. clavatus that has a strongly reduced pectinolytic ability. Despite this similar genomic potential their approaches to degrade plant biomass differ markedly in the overall activities as well as the specific enzymes they employ. While many of the genes have orthologs in (nearly) all tested species, only very few of the corresponding enzymes are produced by all species during growth on wheat bran or sugar beet pulp. In addition, significant differences were observed between the enzyme sets produced on these feedstocks, largely correlating with their polysaccharide composition. Conclusions These data demonstrate that Aspergillus species and possibly also other related fungi employ significantly different approaches to degrade plant biomass. This makes sense from an ecological perspective where mixed populations of fungi together degrade plant biomass. The results of this study indicate that combining the approaches from different species could result in improved enzyme mixtures for industrial applications, in particular saccharification of plant biomass for biofuel production. Such an approach may result in a much better improvement of saccharification efficiency than adding specific enzymes to the mixture of a single fungus, which is currently the most common approach used in biotechnology.
Rights: Benoit et al.

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