(152c) Engineered Signal Transduction Coupled with Gene Circuits Enables Efficient Assimilation of Native and Foreign Nutrients in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae
Currently, engineering xylose assimilation for biomass or ethanol production in S. cerevisiae has been limited towards overexpression of initial genes in the pathway to convert xylose to xylulose-5-phosphate followed by expression of non-oxidative Pentose Phosphate Pathway genes to increase the flux towards glycolysis. But the phenomenon of growth or biomass production involves coordinated control of multiple pathways involving carbon metabolism, cofactor regeneration, amino acid synthesis, nucleotide synthesis, cell cycle maintenance etc., and debottlenecking rate limiting reactions in all of the necessary pathways required for growth in xylose would involve extensive pathway engineering. To get around this, we hypothesized that further enhancement in xylose utilization can be made by addressing the issue from a regulatory perspective rather than metabolic. To that end, we decided on a regulon engineering strategy whereby a sugar sensing regulon can be engineered to trigger transcriptional machinery when xylose is encountered thereby enhancing the growth and biocatalytic fitness in this non-native sugar.
Previous studies have shown that presence of xylose weakly upregulates galactose catabolic genes (GAL). This suggested that xylose can mimic galactose as an agonist of the GAL regulon, and that this system could serve as a platform to develop a xylose-dependent regulatory system. We first engineered the signal transduction step that increases the sensitivity and response kinetics of the GAL regulon for xylose as well as its native ligand, galactose. We further show that by switching ON the regulon using the positive feedback loop of the galactose regulatory circuit, growth rates comparable to already existing evolutionary engineered strains can be achieved with minimal metabolic engineering. In this process, we also enhanced the galactose sensing capabilities of the sensor, thereby achieving higher growth rates on galactose than the wild type strains. Finally, we also show that under non-inducing conditions, strains carrying the xylose regulon show better growth fitness than strains with constitutive expression of xylose metabolic genes. Further increase in growth rates, xylose uptake and specific chemical (including bioethanol) production can be achieved by expanding the genes under the synthetic xylose regulon.