Synthetic biology approach for green macroalgal biomass depolymerization
Salinas Vaccaro, Alejandro Andrés
Green macroalgae represent an attractive source of renewable carbon. Conversion of algal biomass to useful products requires depolymerization of the cell wall polysaccharides cellulose and ulvan. Cellulose saccharification has been widely studied and involves synergistic action of endoglucanases, exoglucanases, and β- glucosidases. The enzymatic depolymerization of ulvan has not received the same attention and additional studies are required in order to fully understand the mechanisms involved in its biodegradation. Synthetic biology offers the possibility of importing modules such as biomass-degrading systems and biofuel producing pathways from different organisms into a genetically tractable host such as Escherichia coli. In this study it was shown that E. coli expressing the glycosidase CHU2268 of Cytophaga hutchinsonii grows well on cello-oligosaccharides such as cellohexaose, and co-expression with the endoglucanase CenA of Cellulomonas fimi allows growth on untreated crystalline cellulose. Moreover, a model for ulvan utilization was built for the first time based on a polysaccharide utilization locus from the alga-associated flavobacterium Formosa agariphila. It was also shown that F. agariphila, is able to grow using biomass from the green macroalga Ulva lactuca as its sole carbon source, and enzymes with ulvanase activity are induced by the presence of this alga in the culture medium. Enzymes for ulvan depolymerization from F. agariphila, including an ulvan lyase, xylanases and rhamnosidases, were cloned using the PaperClip DNA assembly method and expressed in active form in E. coli. Furthermore, a secretion system based on the use of the Antigen 43 was successfully used to secrete an active ulvan lyase using E. coli and ribosome binding sites of different strengths were studied and used to optimize the system. These results represent a first step for the design of a microorganism capable of utilizing green macroalgal biomass for the production of biofuels and other valuable bio-products.