skip to main content

Title: Biotransformation of 2,4‐dinitrotoluene in a phototrophic co‐culture of engineered Synechococcus elongatus and Pseudomonas putida

In contrast to the current paradigm of using microbial mono‐cultures in most biotechnological applications, increasing efforts are being directed towards engineering mixed‐species consortia to perform functions that are difficult to programme into individual strains. In this work, we developed a synthetic microbial consortium composed of two genetically engineered microbes, a cyanobacterium (Synechococcus elongatusPCC 7942) and a heterotrophic bacterium (Pseudomonas putidaEM173). These microbial species specialize in the co‐culture: cyanobacteria fix CO2through photosynthetic metabolism and secrete sufficient carbohydrates to support the growth and active metabolism ofP. putida, which has been engineered to consume sucrose and to degrade the environmental pollutant 2,4‐dinitrotoluene (2,4‐DNT). By encapsulatingS. elongatuswithin a barium–alginate hydrogel, cyanobacterial cells were protected from the toxic effects of 2,4‐DNT, enhancing the performance of the co‐culture. The synthetic consortium was able to convert 2,4‐DNT with light and CO2as key inputs, and its catalytic performance was stable over time. Furthermore, cycling this synthetic consortium through low nitrogen medium promoted the sucrose‐dependent accumulation of polyhydroxyalkanoate, an added‐value biopolymer, in the engineeredP. putidastrain. Altogether, the synthetic consortium displayed the capacity to remediate the industrial pollutant 2,4‐DNT while simultaneously synthesizing biopolymers using light and CO2as the primary inputs.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Microbial Biotechnology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 997-1011
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Engineered cyanobacteriumSynechococcus elongatuscan use light and CO2to produce sucrose, making it a promising candidate for use in co-cultures with heterotrophic workhorses. However, this process is challenged by the mutual stresses generated from the multispecies microbial culture. Here we demonstrate an ecosystem whereS. elongatusis freely grown in a photo-bioreactor (PBR) containing an engineered heterotrophic workhorse (either β-carotene-producingYarrowia lipolytica or indigoidine-producingPseudomonas putida) encapsulated in calcium-alginate hydrogel beads. The encapsulation prevents growth interference, allowing the cyanobacterial culture to produce high sucrose concentrations enabling the production of indigoidine and β-carotene in the heterotroph. Our experimental PBRs yielded an indigoidine titer of 7.5 g/L hydrogel and a β-carotene titer of 1.3 g/L hydrogel, amounts 15–22-fold higher than in a comparable co-culture without encapsulation. Moreover,13C-metabolite analysis and protein overexpression tests indicated that the hydrogel beads provided a favorable microenvironment where the cell metabolism inside the hydrogel was comparable to that in a free culture. Finally, the heterotroph-containing hydrogels were easily harvested and dissolved by EDTA for product recovery, while the cyanobacterial culture itself could be reused for the next batch of immobilized heterotrophs. This co-cultivation and hydrogel encapsulation system is a successful demonstration of bioprocess optimization under photobioreactor conditions.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Photosynthetic organisms possess a variety of mechanisms to achieve balance between absorbed light (source) and the capacity to metabolically utilize or dissipate this energy (sink). While regulatory processes that detect changes in metabolic status/balance are relatively well studied in plants, analogous pathways remain poorly characterized in photosynthetic microbes. Here, we explored systemic changes that result from alterations in carbon availability in the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 by taking advantage of an engineered strain where influx/efflux of a central carbon metabolite, sucrose, can be regulated experimentally. We observed that induction of a high-flux sucrose export pathway leads to depletion of internal carbon storage pools (glycogen) and concurrent increases in estimates of photosynthetic activity. Further, a proteome-wide analysis and fluorescence reporter-based analysis revealed that upregulated factors following the activation of the metabolic sink are concentrated on ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco) and auxiliary modules involved in Rubisco maturation. Carboxysome number and Rubisco activity also increased following engagement of sucrose secretion. Conversely, reversing the flux of sucrose by feeding exogenous sucrose through the heterologous transporter resulted in increased glycogen pools, decreased Rubisco abundance, and carboxysome reorganization. Our data suggest that Rubisco activity and organization are key variables connected to regulatory pathways involved in metabolic balancing in cyanobacteria.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Bacteroidesspecies are prominent members of the human gut microbiota. The prevalence and stability ofBacteroidesin humans make them ideal candidates to engineer as programmable living therapeutics. Here we report a biotic decision-making technology in a community ofBacteroides(consortium transcriptional programming) with genetic circuit compression. Circuit compression requires systematic pairing of engineered transcription factors with cognate regulatable promoters. In turn, we demonstrate the compression workflow by designing, building, and testing all fundamental two-input logic gates dependent on the inputs isopropyl-β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside and D-ribose. We then deploy complete sets of logical operations in five human donorBacteroides, with which we demonstrate sequential gain-of-function control in co-culture. Finally, we couple transcriptional programs with CRISPR interference to achieve loss-of-function regulation of endogenous genes—demonstrating complex control over community composition in co-culture. This work provides a powerful toolkit to program gene expression inBacteroidesfor the development of bespoke therapeutic bacteria.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The field of engineered living materials lies at the intersection of materials science and synthetic biology with the aim of developing materials that can sense and respond to the environment. In this study, we use 3D printing to fabricate a cyanobacterial biocomposite material capable of producing multiple functional outputs in response to an external chemical stimulus and demonstrate the advantages of utilizing additive manufacturing techniques in controlling the shape of the fabricated photosynthetic material. As an initial proof-of-concept, a synthetic riboswitch is used to regulate the expression of a yellow fluorescent protein reporter inSynechococcus elongatusPCC 7942 within a hydrogel matrix. Subsequently, a strain ofS. elongatusis engineered to produce an oxidative laccase enzyme; when printed within a hydrogel matrix the responsive biomaterial can decolorize a common textile dye pollutant, indigo carmine, potentially serving as a tool in environmental bioremediation. Finally, cells are engineered for inducible cell death to eliminate their presence once their activity is no longer required, which is an important function for biocontainment and minimizing environmental impact. By integrating genetically engineered stimuli-responsive cyanobacteria in volumetric 3D-printed designs, we demonstrate programmable photosynthetic biocomposite materials capable of producing functional outputs including, but not limited to, bioremediation.

    more » « less
  5. 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 methanogens 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.

    more » « less