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Title: Co‑cultivation of the anaerobic fungus Caecomyces churrovis with Methanobacterium bryantii enhances transcription of carbohydrate binding modules, dockerins, and pyruvate formate lyases on specific substrates

Anaerobic fungi and methanogenic archaea are two classes of microorganisms found in the rumen microbiome that metabolically interact during lignocellulose breakdown. Here, stable synthetic co-cultures of the anaerobic fungusCaecomyces churrovisand the methanogenMethanobacterium bryantii(not native to the rumen) were formed, demonstrating that microbes from different environments can be paired based on metabolic ties. Transcriptional and metabolic changes induced by methanogen co-culture were evaluated inC. churrovisacross a variety of substrates to identify mechanisms that impact biomass breakdown and sugar uptake. A high-quality genome ofC. churroviswas obtained and annotated, which is the first sequenced genome of a non-rhizoid-forming anaerobic fungus.C. churrovispossess an abundance of CAZymes and carbohydrate binding modules and, in agreement with previous studies of early-diverging fungal lineages, N6-methyldeoxyadenine (6mA) was associated with transcriptionally active genes. Co-culture with the methanogen increased overall transcription of CAZymes, carbohydrate binding modules, and dockerin domains in co-cultures grown on both lignocellulose and cellulose and caused upregulation of genes coding associated enzymatic machinery including carbohydrate binding modules in family 18 and dockerin domains across multiple growth substrates relative toC. churrovismonoculture. Two other fungal strains grown on a reed canary grass substrate in co-culture with the same methanogen also exhibited high log2-fold change values for upregulation of more » genes encoding carbohydrate binding modules in families 1 and 18. Transcriptional upregulation indicated that co-culture of theC. churrovisstrain with a methanogen may enhance pyruvate formate lyase (PFL) function for growth on xylan and fructose and production of bottleneck enzymes in sugar utilization pathways, further supporting the hypothesis that co-culture with a methanogen may enhance certain fungal metabolic functions. Upregulation of CBM18 may play a role in fungal–methanogen physical associations and fungal cell wall development and remodeling.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Biotechnology for Biofuels
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Background

    Quantification of individual species in microbial co-cultures and consortia is critical to understanding and designing communities with prescribed functions. However, it is difficult to physically separate species or measure species-specific attributes in most multi-species systems. Anaerobic gut fungi (AGF) (Neocallimastigomycetes) are native to the rumen of large herbivores, where they exist as minority members among a wealth of prokaryotes. AGF have significant biotechnological potential owing to their diverse repertoire of potent lignocellulose-degrading carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes), which indirectly bolsters activity of other rumen microbes through metabolic exchange. While decades of literature suggest that polysaccharide degradation and AGF growth are accelerated in co-culture with prokaryotes, particularly methanogens, methods have not been available to measure concentrations of individual species in co-culture. New methods to disentangle the contributions of AGF and rumen prokaryotes are sorely needed to calculate AGF growth rates and metabolic fluxes to prove this hypothesis and understand its causality for predictable co-culture design.


    We present a simple, microplate-based method to measure AGF and methanogen concentrations in co-culture based on fluorescence and absorbance spectroscopies. Using samples of < 2% of the co-culture volume, we demonstrate significant increases in AGF growth rate and xylan and glucose degradation rates in co-culture with methanogensmore »relative to mono-culture. Further, we calculate significant differences in AGF metabolic fluxes in co-culture relative to mono-culture, namely increased flux through the energy-generating hydrogenosome organelle. While calculated fluxes highlight uncertainties in AGF primary metabolism that preclude definitive explanations for this shift, our method will enable steady-state fluxomic experiments to probe AGF metabolism in greater detail.


    The method we present to measure AGF and methanogen concentrations enables direct growth measurements and calculation of metabolic fluxes in co-culture. These metrics are critical to develop a quantitative understanding of interwoven rumen metabolism, as well as the impact of co-culture on polysaccharide degradation and metabolite production. The framework presented here can inspire new methods to probe systems beyond AGF and methanogens. Simple modifications to the method will likely extend its utility to co-cultures with more than two organisms or those grown on solid substrates to facilitate the design and deployment of microbial communities for bioproduction and beyond.

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