"This metric allowed us to rank the complete set of pumps and select a subset that represented a uniform distribution of candidate genes," says Mukhopadhyay. "To construct the library, we amplified efflux pump operons from the genomic DNA of the selected bacteria, cloned them into a vector, and transformed the vector into an E. coli host strain."
In a series of survival competitions, the two microbial efflux pumps that performed best were the native E. coli pump AcrAB and a previously uncharacterized pump from a marine microbe Alcanivorax borkumensis.
"We focused on the A. borkumensis pump and tested it in a strain of host microbe engineered to produce the limonene jet fuel precursor," Mukhopadhyay says. "Microbes expressing the pump produced significantly more limonene than those with no pump, providing an important proof of principle demonstration that efflux pumps that increase tolerance to exogenous biofuel can also improve the yield of a production host."
Mukhopadhyay and her JBEI colleagues have begun evaluating microbial efflux pumps for other important compounds as well as inhibitors present in the carbon source from lignocellulose. They are also looking to improve the A. borkumensis pump and other high performers in their current library, and to optimize the systems by which pump genes are expressed in engineered biofuel-producing microbial strains.
"We believe our bioprospecting strategy for biofuel tolerance mechanisms is going to be a valuable and widely applicable tool in the biotechnology field for engineering new microbial production strains," Mukhopadhyay says.
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory