Lignocellulosic biomass, upon pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis, generates a mixture of hexose and pentose sugars such as glucose, xylose, arabinose and galactose. While Escherichia coli utilizes all these sugars it lacks the ability to produce ethanol from them. Recombinant ethanologenic E. coli strains have been created with a goal to produce ethanol from both hexose and pentose sugars. Herein, we review the current state of the art on the production of ethanol from lignocellulosic hydrolyzates by an ethanologenic recombinant E. coli strain (FBR5). The bacterium is stable without antibiotics and can tolerate ethanol up to 50 gL-1. It produces up to 45 g ethanol per L and has the potential to be used for industrial production of ethanol from lignocellulosic hydrolyzates.
The ability to generate tailor-made, functionalized polyester (polyhydroxyalkanoate, PHA) beads in bacteria by harnessing their natural carbon-storage granule production system is an exciting recent development. Proteins that naturally attach to the polyester granule core were rationally engineered to enable in vivo production of PHA beads which are applicable in bioseparation, protein purification, enzyme immobilization and diagnostics and which show advantageous properties toward the development of safe and efficient particulate vaccines. These beads are recombinantly produced as fully functional, insoluble polyester inclusions that can be easily separated from the cell. This simple one-step production of functionalized beads provides a tantalizing alternative to current commercial functional beads, for which proteins must be expressed, purified and then chemically attached to solid supports. The recent success in generating antigen-displaying PHA granules in the food-grade bacterium Lactococcus lactis capable of mediating protective immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection highlights the promise and flexibility of this new technology.
Single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) recombineering is a technology which is used to make subtle changes in the chromosome of several bacterial genera. Cells which express a single-stranded DNA binding protein (RecT or Bet) are transformed with an oligonucleotide which is incorporated via an annealing and replication-dependent mechanism. By in silico analysis we identified ssDNA binding protein homologs in the genus Lactobacillus and Lactococcus lactis. To assess whether we could further improve the recombineering efficiency in Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC PTA 6475 we expressed several RecT homologs in this strain. RecT derived from Enterococcus faecalis CRMEN 19 yielded comparable efficiencies compared with a native RecT protein, but none of the other proteins further increased the recombineering efficiency. We successfully improved recombineering efficiency 10-fold in L. lactis by increasing oligonucleotide concentration combined with the use of oligonucleotides containing phosphorothioate-linkages (PTOs). Surprisingly, neither increased oligonucleotide concentration nor PTO linkages enhanced recombineering in L. reuteri 6475. To emphasize the utility of this technology in improving probiotic features we modified six bases in a transcriptional regulatory element region of the pdu-operon of L. reuteri 6475, yielding a 3-fold increase in the production of the antimicrobial compound reuterin. Directed genetic modification of lactic acid bacteria through ssDNA recombineering will simplify strain improvement in a way that, when mutating a single base, is genetically indistinguishable from strains obtained through directed evolution.
Metabolic engineering is often facilitated by cloning of genes encoding enzymes from various heterologous organisms into E. coli. Such engineering efforts are frequently hampered by foreign genes that are toxic to the E. coli host. We have developed PanDaTox (www.weizmann.ac.il/pandatox), a web-based resource that provides experimental toxicity information for more than 1.5 million genes from hundreds of different microbial genomes. The toxicity predictions, which were extensively experimentally verified, are based on serial cloning of genes into E. coli as part of the Sanger whole genome shotgun sequencing process. PanDaTox can accelerate metabolic engineering projects by allowing researchers to exclude toxic genes from the engineering plan and verify the clonability of selected genes before the actual metabolic engineering experiments are conducted.
Vaccination is the most cost effective strategy for the control and prevention of the plethora of viral diseases affecting poultry production. The major challenge for poultry vaccination is the design of vaccines that will protect against multiple pathogens via a single protective dose, delivered by mass vaccination. The Marek disease virus and the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus cause severe disease outbreaks in chickens. Vaccination with live herpesvirus of turkeys protects chickens from Marek disease and inactivated influenza viruses are used as antigens to protect chickens against influenza virus infections. We developed herpesvirus of turkeys (HVT) as a vaccine vector that can act as a dual vaccine against avian influenza and Marek disease. The HVT vector was developed using reverse genetics based on an infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clone of HVT. The BAC carrying the HVT genome was genetically modified to express the haemagglutinin (HA) gene of a highly pathogenic H7N1 virus. The resultant recombinant BAC construct containing the modified HVT sequence was transfected into chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cells and HVT recombinants (rHVT-H7HA) harbouring the H7N1 HA were recovered. Analysis of cultured CEF cells infected with the rHVT-H7HA showed that HA was expressed and that the rescued rHVT-H7HA stocks were stable during several in vitro passages with no difference in growth kinetics compared with the parent HVT. Immunization of one-day-old chicks with rHVT-H7HA induced H7-specific antibodies and protected chickens challenged with homologous H7N1 virus against virus shedding, clinical disease and death. The rHVT-H7HA vaccine also induced strong and long-lasting antibody titers against H7HA in chickens that were vaccinated in ovo 3 d before hatching. This vaccine supports differentiation between infected and vaccinated animals (DIVA), because no influenza virus nucleoprotein-specific antibodies were detected in the rHVT-H7HA vaccinated birds. The rHVT-H7HA not only provided protection against a lethal challenge with highly pathogenic H7N1 virus but also against highly virulent Marek disease virus and can be used as a DIVA vaccine.
Heparin is the most widely used pharmaceutical to control blood coagulation in modern medicine. A health crisis that took place in 2008 led to a demand for production of heparin from non-animal sources. Since Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are capable of producing heparan sulfate (HS), a related polysaccharide naturally, and heparin and HS share the same biosynthetic pathway, we hypothesized that heparin could be produced in CHO cells by metabolic engineering. We developed stable human N-deacetylase/N-sulfotransferase (NDST2) and mouse heparan sulfate 3-O-sulfotransferase 1 (Hs3st1) expressing cell lines based on the expression of endogenous enzymes in the HS/heparin pathways of CHO-S cells. Both activity assay and disaccharide analysis showed that engineered HS attained heparin-like characteristics but not identical to pharmaceutical heparin, suggesting that further balancing the expression of transgenes with the expression levels of endogenous enzymes involved in HS/heparin biosynthesis might be necessary.
The heterologous expression of laccases is important for their large-scale production and genetic engineering—a prerequisite for industrial application. Pichia pastoris is the preferred expression host for fungal laccases. The recently cloned laccase from the ascomycete Botrytis aclada (BaLac) has been efficiently expressed in P. pastoris under the control of the inducible alcohol oxidase (AOX1) promoter. In this study, we compare these results to the constitutive expression in the same organism using the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAP) promoter. The results show that the amounts of BaLac produced with the GAP system (517 mgL-1) and the AOX1 system (495 mgL-1) are comparable. The constitutive expression is, however, faster, and the specific activity of BaLac in the culture supernatant is higher (41.3 Umg-1 GAP, 14.2 Umg-1 AOX1). In microtiter plates, the constitutive expression provides a clear advantage due to easy manipulation (simple medium, no methanol feeding) and fast enzyme production (high-throughput screening assays can already be performed after 48 h).
Genetic bioaugmentation is an in situ bioremediation method that stimulates horizontal transfer of catabolic plasmids between exogenous donor cells and indigenous bacteria to increase the biodegradation potential of contaminants. A critical outcome of genetic bioaugmentation is the expression of an active catabolic phenotype upon plasmid conjugation. Using a pWW0-derivative TOL plasmid, we showed that certain genetic characteristics of the recipient bacteria, including genomic guanine-cytosine (G + C) content and phylogeny, may limit the expression of the transferred catabolic pathway. However, such genetic limitations observed in transconjugants could be overcome by the presence of an additional carbon source. Glucose and Luria-Bertani broth were shown to enhance the toluene degradation rates of transconjugants; these enhancement effects were dependent on transconjugant genomic G + C contents. Based on these observations, thorough genetic characterization of the indigenous microbial community in the contaminated environment of interest may provide a predictive tool for assessing the success of genetic bioaugmentation.
Chagas disease is the clinical manifestation of the infection produced by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent this disease and the protection attained with vaccines containing non-replicating parasites is limited. Genetically attenuated trypanosomatid parasites can be obtained by deletion of selected genes. Gene deletion takes advantage of the fact that this parasite can undergo homologous recombination between endogenous and foreign DNA sequences artificially introduced in the cells. This approach facilitated the discovery of several unknown gene functions, as well as allowing us to speculate about the potential for genetically attenuated live organisms as experimental immunogens. Vaccination with live attenuated parasites has been used effectively in mice to reduce parasitemia and histological damage, and in dogs, to prevent vector-delivered infection in the field. However, the use of live parasites as immunogens is controversial due to the risk of reversion to a virulent phenotype. Herein, we present our results from experiments on genetic manipulation of two T. cruzi strains to produce parasites with impaired replication and infectivity, and using the mutation of the dhfr-ts gene as a safety device against reversion to virulence.
Members of the genus Clostridium are of both medical and industrial importance. The molecular tools necessary to study and exploit their wide ranging physiological diversity through directed mutational analysis have until recently been lacking. The situation was transformed in the mid-2000s with the specific adaptation of intron re-targeting technology to the genus, through the development of the ClosTron. By making a handful of nucleotide changes to the group II intron encoding region, the intron can be directed to insert into almost any region within the genome. Through the use of a retrotransposition-activated marker (RAM), based on the ermB gene, successful insertion is selected on the basis of acquisition of resistance to erythromycin. The re-targeted region is designed using an online re-targeting algorithm (www.clostron.com), and then an order is placed with DNA2.0 for both the synthesis of the re-targeted region and its custom cloning into the ClosTron vector. Re-targeted ClosTrons are delivered ready for use in 10–14 days, allowing mutants to be isolated 5–7 days after receipt. Its availability has revolutionized clostridial molecular biology.