Tobias Klement, Sofia Milker, Gernot Jäger, Philipp M Grande, Pablo Domínguez de María, Jochen Büchs:
Biomass pretreatment affects Ustilago maydis in producing itaconic acid
Microbial Cell Factories, 2012, 11:43
Background In the last years, the biotechnological production of platform chemicals for fuel components has become a major focus of interest. Although ligno-cellulosic material is considered as suitable feedstock, the almost inevitable pretreatment of this recalcitrant material may interfere with the subsequent fermentation steps. In this study, the fungus Ustilago maydis was used to produce itaconic acid as platform chemical for the synthesis of potential biofuels such as 3-methyltetrahydrofuran. No studies, however, have investigated how pretreatment of ligno-cellulosic biomass precisely influences the subsequent fermentation by U. maydis. Thus, this current study aims to first characterize U. maydis in shake flasks and then to evaluate the influence of three exemplary pretreatment methods on the cultivation and itaconic acid production of this fungus. Cellulose enzymatically hydrolysed in seawater and salt-assisted organic-acid catalysed cellulose were investigated as substrates. Lastly, hydrolysed hemicellulose from fractionated beech wood was applied as substrate. Results U. maydis was characterized on shake flask level regarding its itaconic acid production on glucose. Nitrogen limitation was shown to be a crucial condition for the production of itaconic acid. For itaconic acid concentrations above 25 g/L, a significant product inhibition was observed. Performing experiments that simulated influences of possible pretreatment methods, U. maydis was only slightly affected by high osmolarities up to 3.5 osmol/L as well as of 0.1 M oxalic acid. The production of itaconic acid was achieved on pretreated cellulose in seawater and on the hydrolysed hemicellulosic fraction of pretreated beech wood. Conclusion The fungus U. maydis is a promising producer of itaconic acid, since it grows as single cells (yeast-like) in submerged cultivations and it is extremely robust in high osmotic media and real seawater. Moreover, U. maydis can grow on the hemicellulosic fraction of pretreated beech wood. Thereby, this fungus combines important advantages of yeasts and filamentous fungi. Nevertheless, the biomass pretreatment does indeed affect the subsequent itaconic acid production. Although U. maydis is insusceptible to most possible impurities from pretreatment, high amounts of salts or residues of organic acids can slow microbial growth and decrease the production. Consequently, the pretreatment step needs to fit the prerequisites defined by the actual microorganisms applied for fermentation.
Ustilago maydis, Itaconic acid, Lignocellulose, Pretreatment, Seawater, RAMOS