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      Genome replication engineering assisted continuous evolution (GREACE) to improve microbial tolerance for biofuels production


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          Microbial production of biofuels requires robust cell growth and metabolism under tough conditions. Conventionally, such tolerance phenotypes were engineered through evolutionary engineering using the principle of “Mutagenesis followed-by Selection”. The iterative rounds of mutagenesis-selection and frequent manual interventions resulted in discontinuous and inefficient strain improvement processes. This work aimed to develop a more continuous and efficient evolutionary engineering method termed as “Genome Replication Engineering Assisted Continuous Evolution” (GREACE) using “Mutagenesis coupled-with Selection” as its core principle.


          The core design of GREACE is to introduce an in vivo continuous mutagenesis mechanism into microbial cells by introducing a group of genetically modified proofreading elements of the DNA polymerase complex to accelerate the evolution process under stressful conditions. The genotype stability and phenotype heritability can be stably maintained once the genetically modified proofreading element is removed, thus scarless mutants with desired phenotypes can be obtained.

          Kanamycin resistance of E. coli was rapidly improved to confirm the concept and feasibility of GREACE. Intrinsic mechanism analysis revealed that during the continuous evolution process, the accumulation of genetically modified proofreading elements with mutator activities endowed the host cells with enhanced adaptation advantages. We further showed that GREACE can also be applied to engineer n-butanol and acetate tolerances. In less than a month, an E. coli strain capable of growing under an n-butanol concentration of 1.25% was isolated. As for acetate tolerance, cell growth of the evolved E. coli strain increased by 8-fold under 0.1% of acetate. In addition, we discovered that adaptation to specific stresses prefers accumulation of genetically modified elements with specific mutator strengths.


          We developed a novel GREACE method using “Mutagenesis coupled-with Selection” as core principle. Successful isolation of E. coli strains with improved n-butanol and acetate tolerances demonstrated the potential of GREACE as a promising method for strain improvement in biofuels production.

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          Non-fermentative pathways for synthesis of branched-chain higher alcohols as biofuels.

          Global energy and environmental problems have stimulated increased efforts towards synthesizing biofuels from renewable resources. Compared to the traditional biofuel, ethanol, higher alcohols offer advantages as gasoline substitutes because of their higher energy density and lower hygroscopicity. In addition, branched-chain alcohols have higher octane numbers compared with their straight-chain counterparts. However, these alcohols cannot be synthesized economically using native organisms. Here we present a metabolic engineering approach using Escherichia coli to produce higher alcohols including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol from glucose, a renewable carbon source. This strategy uses the host's highly active amino acid biosynthetic pathway and diverts its 2-keto acid intermediates for alcohol synthesis. In particular, we have achieved high-yield, high-specificity production of isobutanol from glucose. The strategy enables the exploration of biofuels beyond those naturally accumulated to high quantities in microbial fermentation.
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            Deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals.

            Plants represent a vast, renewable resource and are well suited to provide sustainably for humankind's transportation fuel needs. To produce infrastructure-compatible fuels from biomass, two challenges remain: overcoming plant cell wall recalcitrance to extract sugar and phenolic intermediates, and reduction of oxygenated intermediates to fuel molecules. To compete with fossil-based fuels, two primary routes to deconstruct cell walls are under development, namely biochemical and thermochemical conversion. Here, we focus on overcoming recalcitrance with biochemical conversion, which uses low-severity thermochemical pretreatment followed by enzymatic hydrolysis to produce soluble sugars. Many challenges remain, including understanding how pretreatments affect the physicochemical nature of heterogeneous cell walls; determination of how enzymes deconstruct the cell wall effectively with the aim of designing superior catalysts; and resolution of issues associated with the co-optimization of pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation. Here, we highlight some of the scientific challenges and open questions with a particular focus on problems across multiple length scales.
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              DNA replication fidelity.

              DNA replication fidelity is a key determinant of genome stability and is central to the evolution of species and to the origins of human diseases. Here we review our current understanding of replication fidelity, with emphasis on structural and biochemical studies of DNA polymerases that provide new insights into the importance of hydrogen bonding, base pair geometry, and substrate-induced conformational changes to fidelity. These studies also reveal polymerase interactions with the DNA minor groove at and upstream of the active site that influence nucleotide selectivity, the efficiency of exonucleolytic proofreading, and the rate of forming errors via strand misalignments. We highlight common features that are relevant to the fidelity of any DNA synthesis reaction, and consider why fidelity varies depending on the enzymes, the error, and the local sequence environment.

                Author and article information

                Biotechnol Biofuels
                Biotechnol Biofuels
                Biotechnology for Biofuels
                BioMed Central
                27 September 2013
                : 6
                : 137
                [1 ]CAS Key Laboratory of Microbial Physiological and Metabolic Engineering, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 1 West Beichen Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China
                [2 ]University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
                [3 ]State Key Laboratory of Microbial Resources, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
                Copyright © 2013 Luan et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 4 June 2013
                : 24 September 2013

                mutagenesis coupled-with selection,greace,genome replication engineering,continuous evolution,strain improvement


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