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Process relevant screening of cellulolytic organisms for consolidated bioprocessing

Although the biocatalytic conversion of cellulosic biomass could replace fossil oil for the production of various compounds, it is often not economically viable due to the high costs of cellulolytic enzymes. One possibility to reduce costs is consolidated bioprocessing (CBP), integrating cellulase production, hydrolysis of cellulose, and the fermentation of the released sugars to the desired product into one process step. To establish such a process, the most suitable cellulase-producing organism has to be identified. Thereby, it is crucial to evaluate the candidates under target process conditions. In this work, the chosen model process was the conversion of cellulose to the platform chemical itaconic acid by a mixed culture of a cellulolytic fungus with Aspergillus terreus as itaconic acid producer. Various cellulase producers were analyzed by the introduced freeze assay that measures the initial carbon release rate, quantifying initial cellulase activity under target process conditions. Promising candidates were then characterized online by monitoring their respiration activity metabolizing cellulose to assess the growth and enzyme production dynamics.

The screening of five different cellulase producers with the freeze assay identified Trichoderma reesei and Penicillium verruculosum as most promising. The measurement of the respiration activity revealed a retarded induction of cellulase production for P. verruculosum but a similar cellulase production rate afterwards, compared to T. reesei. The freeze assay measurement depicted that P. verruculosum reaches the highest initial carbon release rate among all investigated cellulase producers. After a modification of the cultivation procedure, these results were confirmed by the respiration activity measurement. To compare both methods, a correlation between the measured respiration activity and the initial carbon release rate of the freeze assay was introduced. The analysis revealed that the different initial enzyme/cellulose ratios as well as a discrepancy in cellulose digestibility are the main differences between the two approaches.

With two complementary methods to quantify cellulase activity and the dynamics of cellulase production for CBP applications, T. reesei and P. verruculosum were identified as compatible candidates for the chosen model process. The presented methods can easily be adapted to screen for suitable cellulose degrading organisms for various other applications.

Authors: Antonov, Elena; Schlembach, Ivan; Regestein, Lars; Rosenbaum, Miriam A.; Büchs, Jochen

Journal: Biotechnology for Biofuels (2017), Volume: 10, Article Number: 106

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