High-level functional expression of a fungal xylose isomerase: the key to efficient ethanolic fermentation of xylose by Saccharomyces cerevisiae?


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Evidence is presented that xylose metabolism in the anaerobic cellulolytic fungus Piromyces sp. E2 proceeds via a xylose isomerase rather than via the xylose reductase/xylitol-dehydrogenase pathway found in xylose-metabolising yeasts. The XylA gene encoding the Piromyces xylose isomerase was functionally expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Heterologous isomerase activities in cell extracts, assayed at 30°C, were 0.3–1.1 μmol min−1 (mg protein)−1, with a Km for xylose of 20 mM. The engineered S. cerevisiae strain grew very slowly on xylose. It co-consumed xylose in aerobic and anaerobic glucose-limited chemostat cultures at rates of 0.33 and 0.73 mmol (g biomass)−1 h−1, respectively.