Evolutionary engineering of mixed-sugar utilization by a xylose-fermenting Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain

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Abstract

We have recently reported about a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain that, in addition to the Piromyces XylA xylose isomerase gene, overexpresses the native genes for the conversion of xylulose to glycolytic intermediates. This engineered strain (RWB 217) exhibited unprecedentedly high specific growth rates and ethanol production rates under anaerobic conditions with xylose as the sole carbon source. However, when RWB 217 was grown on glucose–xylose mixtures, a diauxic growth pattern was observed with a relatively slow consumption of xylose in the second growth phase. After prolonged cultivation in an anaerobic, xylose-limited chemostat, a culture with improved xylose uptake kinetics was obtained. This culture also exhibited improved xylose consumption in glucose–xylose mixtures. A further improvement in mixed-sugar utilization was obtained by prolonged anaerobic cultivation in automated sequencing-batch reactors on glucose–xylose mixtures. A final single-strain isolate (RWB 218) rapidly consumed glucose–xylose mixtures anaerobically, in synthetic medium, with a specific rate of xylose consumption exceeding 0.9 g g−1 h−1. When the kinetics of zero trans-influx of glucose and xylose of RWB 218 were compared to that of the initial strain, a twofold higher capacity (Vmax) as well as an improved Km for xylose was apparent in the selected strain. It is concluded that the kinetics of xylose fermentation are no longer a bottleneck in the industrial production of bioethanol with yeast.

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