High level expression of Acidothermus cellulolyticus β-1, 4-endoglucanase in transgenic rice enhances the hydrolysis of its straw by cultured cow gastric fluid
1 Institute of Bioagricultural Science, National Chiayi University, Chiayi, 60004 Taiwan
2 Fungal Biotechnology Team, Chemical and Biological Processing Development Group, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, 99352, USA
3 Departmet of Microbiology, Immunology and Biopharmaceuticals, National Chiayi University, Chiayi, 60004 Taiwan
4 School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4238, USA
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:58 doi:10.1186/1754-6834-4-58Published: 10 December 2011
Large-scale production of effective cellulose hydrolytic enzymes is the key to the bioconversion of agricultural residues to ethanol. The goal of this study was to develop a rice plant as a bioreactor for the large-scale production of cellulose hydrolytic enzymes via genetic transformation, and to simultaneously improve rice straw as an efficient biomass feedstock for conversion of cellulose to glucose.
In this study, the cellulose hydrolytic enzyme β-1, 4-endoglucanase (E1) gene, from the thermophilic bacterium Acidothermus cellulolyticus, was overexpressed in rice through Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. The expression of the bacterial E1 gene in rice was driven by the constitutive Mac promoter, a hybrid promoter of Ti plasmid mannopine synthetase promoter and cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter enhancer, with the signal peptide of tobacco pathogenesis-related protein for targeting the E1 protein to the apoplastic compartment for storage. A total of 52 transgenic rice plants from six independent lines expressing the bacterial E1 enzyme were obtained that expressed the gene at high levels without severely impairing plant growth and development. However, some transgenic plants exhibited a shorter stature and flowered earlier than the wild type plants. The E1 specific activities in the leaves of the highest expressing transgenic rice lines were about 20-fold higher than those of various transgenic plants obtained in previous studies and the protein amounts accounted for up to 6.1% of the total leaf soluble protein. A zymogram and temperature-dependent activity analyses demonstrated the thermostability of the E1 enzyme and its substrate specificity against cellulose, and a simple heat treatment can be used to purify the protein. In addition, hydrolysis of transgenic rice straw with cultured cow gastric fluid for one hour at 39°C and another hour at 81°C yielded 43% more reducing sugars than wild type rice straw.
Taken together, these data suggest that transgenic rice can effectively serve as a bioreactor for the large-scale production of active, thermostable cellulose hydrolytic enzymes. As a feedstock, direct expression of large amount of cellulases in transgenic rice may also facilitate saccharification of cellulose in rice straw and significantly reduce the costs for hydrolytic enzymes.