Engineering the pentose phosphate pathway of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for production of ethanol and xylitol: Dissertation

    Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


    The baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a long tradition in alcohol production from D-glucose of e.g. starch. However, without genetic modifications it is unable to utilise the 5-carbon sugars D-xylose and L arabinose present in plant biomass. In this study, one key metabolic step of the catabolic D-xylose pathway in recombinant D-xylose-utilising S. cerevisiae strains was studied. This step, carried out by xylulokinase (XK), was shown to be rate-limiting, because overexpression of the xylulokinase-encoding gene XKS1 increased both the specific ethanol production rate and the yield from D xylose. In addition, less of the unwanted side product xylitol was produced. Recombinant D-xylose-utilizing S. cerevisiae strains have been constructed by expressing the genes coding for the first two enzymes of the pathway, D-xylose reductase (XR) and xylitol dehydrogenase (XDH) from the D-xylose-utilising yeast Pichia stipitis. In this study, the ability of endogenous genes of S. cerevisiae to enable D-xylose utilisation was evaluated. Overexpression of the GRE3 gene coding for an unspecific aldose reductase and the ScXYL2 gene coding for a xylitol dehydrogenase homologue enabled growth on D-xylose in aerobic conditions. However, the strain with GRE3 and ScXYL2 had a lower growth rate and accumulated more xylitol compared to the strain with the corresponding enzymes from P. stipitis. Use of the strictly NADPH-dependent Gre3p instead of the P. stipitis XR able to utilise both NADH and NADPH leads to a more severe redox imbalance. In a S. cerevisiae strain not engineered for D-xylose utilisation the presence of D-xylose increased xylitol dehydrogenase activity and the expression of the genes SOR1 or SOR2 coding for sorbitol dehydrogenase. Thus, D-xylose utilisation by S. cerevisiae with activities encoded by ScXYL2 or possibly SOR1 or SOR2, and GRE3 is feasible, but requires efficient redox balance engineering. Compared to D-xylose, D-glucose is a cheap and readily available substrate and thus an attractive alternative for xylitol manufacture. In this study, the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) of S. cerevisiae was engineered for production of xylitol from D-glucose. Xylitol was formed from D-xylulose 5-phosphate in strains lacking transketolase activity and expressing the gene coding for XDH from P. stipitis. In addition to xylitol, ribitol, D-ribose and D-ribulose were also formed. Deletion of the xylulokinase-encoding gene increased xylitol production, whereas the expression of DOG1 coding for sugar phosphate phosphatase increased ribitol, D-ribose and D-ribulose production. Strains lacking phosphoglucose isomerase (Pgi1p) activity were shown to produce 5 carbon compounds through PPP when DOG1 was overexpressed. Expression of genes encoding glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase of Bacillus subtilis, GapB, or NAD-dependent glutamate dehydrogenase Gdh2p of S. cerevisiae, altered the cellular redox balance and enhanced growth of pgi1 strains on D glucose, but co-expression with DOG1 reduced growth on higher D-glucose concentrations. Strains lacking both transketolase and phosphoglucose isomerase activities tolerated only low D-glucose concentrations, but the yield of 5-carbon sugars and sugar alcohols on D-glucose was about 50% (w/w).
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor Degree
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Helsinki
    • Ruohonen, Laura, Supervisor, External person
    • Penttilä, Merja, Supervisor
    Award date12 Jun 2007
    Place of PublicationEspoo
    Print ISBNs978-951-38-7020-1
    Electronic ISBNs978-951-38-7021-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
    • bioethanol
    • D-xylose
    • xylulokinase
    • endogenous pathway
    • aldose reductase
    • xylitol dehydrogenase
    • sorbitol dehydrogenase
    • transketolase
    • phosphoglucose isomerase
    • xylitol
    • ribitol
    • D-ribose


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