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Plant cell reports

Ectopic expression of bacterial amylopullulanase enhances bioethanol production from maize grain.


PMID 23652819

Abstract

Heterologous expression of amylopullulanase in maize seeds leads to partial starch degradation into fermentable sugars, which enhances direct bioethanol production from maize grain. Utilization of maize in bioethanol industry in the United States reached ±13.3 billion gallons in 2012, most of which was derived from maize grain. Starch hydrolysis for bioethanol industry requires the addition of thermostable alpha amylase and amyloglucosidase (AMG) enzymes to break down the α-1,4 and α-1,6 glucosidic bonds of starch that limits the cost effectiveness of the process on an industrial scale due to its high cost. Transgenic plants expressing a thermostable starch-degrading enzyme can overcome this problem by omitting the addition of exogenous enzymes during the starch hydrolysis process. In this study, we generated transgenic maize plants expressing an amylopullulanase (APU) enzyme from the bacterium Thermoanaerobacter thermohydrosulfuricus. A truncated version of the dual functional APU (TrAPU) that possesses both alpha amylase and pullulanase activities was produced in maize endosperm tissue using a seed-specific promoter of 27-kD gamma zein. A number of analyses were performed at 85 °C, a temperature typically used for starch processing. Firstly, enzymatic assay and thin layer chromatography analysis showed direct starch hydrolysis into glucose. In addition, scanning electron microscopy illustrated porous and broken granules, suggesting starch autohydrolysis. Finally, bioethanol assay demonstrated that a 40.2 ± 2.63 % (14.7 ± 0.90 g ethanol per 100 g seed) maize starch to ethanol conversion was achieved from the TrAPU seeds. Conversion efficiency was improved to reach 90.5 % (33.1 ± 0.66 g ethanol per 100 g seed) when commercial amyloglucosidase was added after direct hydrolysis of TrAPU maize seeds. Our results provide evidence that enzymes for starch hydrolysis can be produced in maize seeds to enhance bioethanol production.

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