|Title||Isolation, characterization and engineering of Bacillus smithii : a novel thermophilic platform organism for green chemical production|
|Source||Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Willem de Vos; John van der Oost, co-promotor(en): Richard van Kranenburg. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789462575073 - 220|
|Publication type||Dissertation, internally prepared|
|Keyword(s)||bacillus smithii - bacillus (bacteria) - biobrandstoffen - chemicaliën uit biologische grondstoffen - thermofielen - metabolische profilering - genoomanalyse - mutaties - isolatie - bioengineering - karakterisering - bacillus smithii - bacillus (bacteria) - biofuels - biobased chemicals - thermophiles - metabolic profiling - genome analysis - mutations - isolation - bioengineering - characterization|
Due to the globally increasing demand for chemicals and fuels and the high environmental impact and limited amount of fossil resources, there is a growing interest in green chemicals and fuels derived from renewable resources. As described in Chapter 1, one of the most feasible alternatives on the short term is microbial conversion of the sugars in biomass to fuels and chemicals in a biorefinery. To be economically and ethically feasible, non-food biomass should be used as a resource, which is often difficult with currently used production organisms. Also, to be economically feasible, the costs of green chemicals and fuels need to be further reduced to be below the costs of products based on fossil resources. To do so, other organisms than the currently most-used platform organisms such as Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae should be used. Ideally, this alternative organism is genetically accessible, has high productivity, titre and yield, is flexible in carbon source, robust, moderately thermophilic, acidophilic, facultatively anaerobic and has little nutritional requirements. The organisms that come closest to these criteria are thermophilic bacilli, which form a diverse class of organisms in the family of Bacillaceae. This thesis describes the isolation, characterization and metabolic engineering of Bacillus smithii, a novel potential thermophilic platform organism.
Chapter 2 provides more detail on the use of thermophilic microorganisms as platform organisms for green chemical production in a biorefinery concept. As commercially available enzyme mixtures used in the simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) of biomass have their optimum temperature around 50-60°C, using a moderately thermophilic organism would reduce the costs of the SSF process compared to when using mesophiles by reducing the amount of required enzyme. Also, thermophilic processes are less prone to contaminations, and substrate and product solubility are increased. Several successful examples of the application of facultatively anaerobic thermophiles for green chemical production from lignocellulose in an SSF setting are for example Bacillus coagulans for lactic acid production and Bacillus licheniformis for 2,3-butanediol production. However, whereas strongly developed genetic toolboxes are available for current mesophilic production organisms, these tools are still in their infancy for thermophilic organisms. Such tools are required to optimize production and to study metabolism. Thermophilic organisms show a wide variety in metabolism and in many cases the metabolism of these organisms is still poorly understood, hampering full optimization. Chapter 2 furthermore provides an overview of transformation, integration and counter-selection methods currently used for thermophiles. Although several deletion mutants have been constructed using these methods, not all of them are entirely markerless and most are not suited as high-throughput engineering tools, stressing the need for further research in this area.
Despite several facultatively anaerobic thermophiles being described as genetically accessible, this feature is still one the major bottlenecks in developing these organisms into platform organisms. Therefore, in Chapter 3, we set out to isolate a facultatively anaerobic, moderately thermophilic bacterium that was genetically accessible and produced high titers of organic acids. A total of 267 strains of different thermophilic bacilli species were isolated from compost and screened for C5 and C6 sugar utilization and acid production. The 44 best strains were screened for genetic accessibility via electroporation. Only 3 strains tested positive for this, namely Geobacillus thermodenitrificans strains ET 144-2 and ET 251 and B. smithii strain ET 138. In subsequent evaluations in lab-scale bioreactors at 55°C and pH 6.5 on glucose, the two G. thermodenitrificans strains performed poorly whereas B. smithii performed well with high titers, yields and productivity of mainly lactate. In similar lab-scale reactors, this strain also performed well on xylose and at pH 5.5 and was still able to perform for 48 at pH 4.5. The electroporation protocol for this strain was optimized, resulting in a maximum efficiency of 5x103 colonies per µg plasmid pNW33n. Two other B. smithii strains, among which the type strain DSM 4216T, were also shown to be transformable with pNW33n. This is the first time that genetic accessibility is described for B. smithii and it is the first step towards developing it into a platform organism, for which it appears to be suitable based on its efficient C5 and C6 sugar utilization and acid production profile.
In order to become a platform organism and to study its atypical metabolism, a genetic toolbox needs to be established for B. smithii. Chapter 5 describes the development of a markerless gene deletion method for B. smithii. For strains ET 138 and DSM 4216T, the ldhL gene was markerlessly removed via double homologous recombination using plasmid pNW33n. Despite the replicative nature of this plasmid at 55°C, mixtures of single and double crossovers were readily obtained. A pure double crossover deletion mutant was obtained after several transfers on a more defined medium containing acetate or lactate and PCR-based screenings. To eliminate the possibility of mixed genotypes, we subsequently developed a lacZ-counter-selection system, which is based on the toxicity of high X-gal concentrations in the presence of the plasmid-encoded lacZ gene. Using this method, the sporulation-specific sigma factor sigF and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex E1-α pdhA were consecutively removed from the B. smithii ET 138 genome in a markerless way. An initial evaluation of the growth and production profiles of the mutant strains in tubes showed that removal of the ldhL gene eliminates l-lactate production and causes a severe decrease in anaerobic growth and production capacities. B. smithii mutants lacking the sigF gene were unable to sporulate and removal of the pdhA gene eliminated acetate production and rendered the strains auxotrophic for acetate.