Biotechnology for biofuels

Analysis of Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052's transcriptional response to ferulic acid and its application to enhance the strain tolerance.

PMID 25904983


Plant-based cellulose presents the best source of renewable sugars for biofuel production. However, the lignin associated with plant cellulose presents a hurdle as hydrolysis of this component leads to the production of inhibitory compounds, such as ferulic acid. The impacts of ferulic acid, a phenolic compound commonly found in lignin hydrolysates, on the growth, solvent production, and transcriptional responses of Clostridium beijerinckii NCIMB 8052 were determined. Addition of ferulic acid to growing cultures resulted in a decrease in the growth and solvent production by 30% and 25%, respectively, when compared to the control cultures. To better understand the toxicity of this compound, microarray analyses were performed using samples taken from these cultures at three different growth states. Several gene ontology terms and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways were identified showing significant change at each status, including ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, two component system, and oxidoreductase activity. Moreover, genes related with efflux systems and heat shock proteins were also strongly up-regulated. Among these, expression of the groESL operon was induced by more than fourfold and was consequently selected to improve C. beijerinckii tolerance to ferulic acid. Real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) analysis confirmed that C. beijerinckii harboring the plasmid, pSAAT-ptb_Gro, had a two- to fivefold increased groESL operon expression during growth of these cultures. Moreover, this strain was more tolerant to ferulic acid as the growth of this recombinant strain and its bioconversion of glucose into solvents were both improved. Using transcriptomics, we identified numerous genes that are differentially expressed when C. beijerinckii cultures were exposed to ferulic acid for varying amounts of time. The operon expressing groESL was consistently up-regulated, suggesting that this gene cluster may contribute to strain tolerance. This was confirmed as recombinant cultures showed both an enhanced growth and solvent yield in the presence of 0.5xa0g/L ferulic acid.

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