• Exploiting the inter-strain divergence of Fusarium oxysporum for microbial bioprocessing of lignocellulose to bioethanol

      Ali, Shahin S; Khan, Mojibur; Fagan, Brian; Mullins, Ewen; Doohan, Fiona M (Biomed Central, 2012-03-15)
      Microbial bioprocessing of lignocellulose to bioethanol still poses challenges in terms of substrate catabolism. A targeted evolution-based study was undertaken to determine if inter-strain microbial variability could be exploited for bioprocessing of lignocellulose to bioethanol. The microorganism studied was Fusarium oxysporum because of its capacity to both saccharify and ferment lignocellulose. Strains of F. oxysporum were isolated and assessed for their genetic variability. Using optimised solid-state straw culture conditions, experiments were conducted that compared fungal strains in terms of their growth, enzyme activities (cellulases, xylanase and alcohol dehydrogenase) and yield of bioethanol and the undesirable by-products acetic acid and xylitol. Significant inter-strain divergence was recorded in regards to the capacity of studied F. oxysporum strains to produce alcohol from untreated straw. No correlation was observed between bioethanol synthesis and either the biomass production or microbial enzyme activity. A strong correlation was observed between both acetic acid and xylitol production and bioethanol yield. The level of diversity recorded in the alcohol production capacity among closely-related microorganism means that a targeted screening of populations of selected microbial species could greatly improve bioprocessing yields, in terms of providing both new host strains and candidate genes for the bioethanol industry.
    • Insights from the Fungus Fusarium oxysporum Point to High Affinity Glucose Transporters as Targets for Enhancing Ethanol Production from Lignocellulose

      Ali, Shahin S; Nugent, Brian; Mullins, Ewen; Doohan, Fiona M. (PLOS, 2013-01-30)
      Ethanol is the most-widely used biofuel in the world today. Lignocellulosic plant biomass derived from agricultural residue can be converted to ethanol via microbial bioprocessing. Fungi such as Fusarium oxysporum can simultaneously saccharify straw to sugars and ferment sugars to ethanol. But there are many bottlenecks that need to be overcome to increase the efficacy of microbial production of ethanol from straw, not least enhancement of the rate of fermentation of both hexose and pentose sugars. This research tested the hypothesis that the rate of sugar uptake by F. oxysporum would enhance the ethanol yields from lignocellulosic straw and that high affinity glucose transporters can enhance ethanol yields from this substrate. We characterized a novel hexose transporter (Hxt) from this fungus. The F. oxysporum Hxt represents a novel transporter with homology to yeast glucose signaling/transporter proteins Rgt2 and Snf3, but it lacks their C-terminal domain which is necessary for glucose signalling. Its expression level decreased with increasing glucose concentration in the medium and in a glucose uptake study the Km(glucose) was 0.9 mM, which indicated that the protein is a high affinity glucose transporter. Post-translational gene silencing or over expression of the Hxt in F. oxysporum directly affected the glucose and xylose transport capacity and ethanol yielded by F. oxysporum from straw, glucose and xylose. Thus we conclude that this Hxt has the capacity to transport both C5 and C6 sugars and to enhance ethanol yields from lignocellulosic material. This study has confirmed that high affinity glucose transporters are ideal candidates for improving ethanol yields from lignocellulose because their activity and level of expression is high in low glucose concentrations, which is very common during the process of consolidated processing.