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Transcriptome analysis of Zymomonas mobilis ZM4 reveals mechanisms of tolerance and detoxificaton of phenolic aldehyde inhibitors from lignocellulose pretreatment

Xia Yi, Hanqi Gu, Qiuqiang Gao, Z Lewis Liu, Jie Bao
Biotechnology for biofuels 2015 v.8 no.153 pp. 1-15
Zymomonas mobilis, biocatalysts, biofuels, ethanol, fermentation, fuel production, furfural, gene overexpression, genetic engineering, hydroxybenzaldehyde, hydroxymethylfurfural, lignocellulose, metabolic detoxification, microbial growth, multigene family, toxicity, transcriptome, transcriptomics, vanillin
Phenolic aldehydes generated from lignocellulose pretreatment exhibited severe toxic inhibitions on microbial growth and fermentation. Numerous tolerance studies against furfural, 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde (HMF), acetate, and ethanol were reported, but studies on inhibition of phenolic aldehyde inhibitors are rare. For ethanologenic strains, Zymomonas mobilis ZM4 is high in ethanol productivity and genetic manipulation feasibility, but sensitive to phenolic aldehyde inhibitors. Molecular mechanisms of tolerance for Z. mobilis toward phenolic aldehydes are not known. Results: We took the first insight into genomic response of Z. mobilis ZM4 to the phenolic aldehyde inhibitors derived from lignocellulose pretreatment. The results suggest that the toxicity to cells is caused by the functional group of phenolic aldehyde, similar to furfural and HMF, rather than aromatic groups or phenolic hydroxyl groups. Transcriptome response against 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, syringaldehyde, and vanillin, representing phenolic groups H, S, and G, respectively, was investigated. The atlas of the important genes responsible for significantly enhanced and repressed genes at the genomic level was illustrated. 272 genes with twofold greater expressions than non-treated controls and 36 gene clusters in response to challenges of these phenolic aldehydes were identified. Several reductases encoded by ZMO1116, ZMO1696, and ZMO1885 were found to play the key roles in reducing phenolic aldehydes into the corresponding phenolic alcohols. Reduction of phenolic aldehydes by overexpression of ZMO1116, ZMO1696, and ZMO1885 in Z. mobilis ZM4 resulted in the increased inhibitor conversion and ethanol productivity, especially for 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde and vanillin. Several transporter genes such as ZMO0282, ZMO0283, ZMO0798, ZMO0799, and ZMO0800 was also displayed significantly increased expressions against the phenolic aldehydes. Conclusions: The genes encoding reductases are with potentials on phenolic aldehydes-tolerant genes contributing to the reduction of phenolic aldehydes into the corresponding phenolic alcohols forms for Z. mobilis ZM4. Overexpression of the key genes improved the conversion ratio and ethanol productivity of 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde and vanillin with high toxicity. New knowledge obtained from this research aids understanding the mechanisms of bacterial tolerance and the development of the next-generation biocatalysts for advanced biofuels production.