Molecular design, construction, and characterization of a xylanosome: a protein nanostructure for biomass utilization
McClendon, Shara Demetria
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Lignocellulosic biomass is an abundant renewable resource targeted for biofuel production. Cellulose and hemicellulose from biomass both contain fermentable sugars and other moieties that can be converted to biofuels or other commodity chemicals. Enzymatic hydrolysis of these biopolymers is a critical step in the liberation of sugars for fermentation into desired products. In nature, anaerobic microbes produce protein nanostructures called cellulosomes that efficiently degrade cellulose substrates by combining multiple enzyme activities onto a scaffolding protein. However, current enzyme cocktails used in industry contain secretomes of aerobic microbes and are not efficient enough to be highly economical. Furthermore, most bio-processes focus on cellulose, rendering hemicellulose under-utilized. The three main objectives of this dissertation are to 1) develop multi-functional, self-assembling protein nanostructures for hemicellulose degradation using the architecture provided by cellulosomes, 2) understand the self-assembly mechanism at conditions for consolidated bioprocessing applications, and 3) compare the effectiveness of structured to non-structured hemicellulases in the hydrolysis of biomass. Xylan is a major type of hemicellulose in biomass feedstocks targeted for biofuel production. Six different xylanosomes were designed for hydrolysis of xylan within multiple biomass substrates using the cohesin-dockerin domain systems from Clostridium thermocellum, Clostridium cellulovorans, and Clostridium cellulolyticum. Each two-unit structure contained a xylanase for internal cleavage of the xylan backbone and one side-chain acting enzyme, either a ferulic acid esterase or bi-functional arabinofuranosidase/xylosidase. Expansion to three-unit xylanosomes included a family 10 or 11 xylanase, a bi-functional arabinofuranosidase/xylosidase, and bi-functional ferulic acid esterase/acetylxylan esterase. These multi-functional biocatalysts were used to degrade hemicellulose-rich wheat arabinoxylan and cellulose-containing destarched corn bran. Synergistic release of soluble sugars and ferulic acid was observed with select xylanosomes and in some cases required addition of an endoglucanase and cellobiohydrolase for enhanced hydrolysis. Furthermore, a putative ferulic acid esterase gene from the soil bacterium Cellvibrio japonicus was characterized and its role in xylan hydrolysis investigated. Information for the development of stable and functional cellulosome-like biocatalysts in metabolically-engineered microbes was collected using surface plasmon resonance. The protein-protein interaction of cohesin and dockerin domains for xylanosome self-assembly was examined at various temperatures and in the presence of ethanol to mimic different hydrolysis and fermentation processes and found to retain high affinities at the selected conditions. Moreover, the high-affinity interaction of cohesin and dockerin domains in the presence of non-specific proteins eliminated the need for protein purification for xylanosome construction. In addition to development of the first cellulosome-like biocatalysts targeted for hemicellulose degradation, this dissertation provides insight on possible improvements for the enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass, as well as the applicability of xylanosomes in consolidated bioprocessing.