A SWEET surprise: Anaerobic fungal sugar transporters and chimeras enhance sugar uptake in yeast

Igor A. Podolsky, Susanna Seppälä, Haiqing Xu, Yong Su Jin, Michelle A. O'Malley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, microbial fuels and chemicals production on lignocellulosic hydrolysates is constrained by poor sugar transport. For biotechnological applications, it is desirable to source transporters with novel or enhanced function from nonconventional organisms in complement to engineering known transporters. Here, we identified and functionally screened genes from three strains of early-branching anaerobic fungi (Neocallimastigomycota) that encode sugar transporters from the recently discovered Sugars Will Eventually be Exported Transporter (SWEET) superfamily in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A novel fungal SWEET, NcSWEET1, was identified that localized to the plasma membrane and complemented growth in a hexose transporter-deficient yeast strain. Single cross-over chimeras were constructed from a leading NcSWEET1 expression-enabling domain paired with all other candidate SWEETs to broadly scan the sequence and functional space for enhanced variants. This led to the identification of a chimera, NcSW1/PfSW2:TM5-7, that enhanced the growth rate significantly on glucose, fructose, and mannose. Additional chimeras with varied cross-over junctions identified residues in TM1 that affect substrate selectivity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that NcSWEET1 and the enhanced NcSW1/PfSW2:TM5-7 variant facilitated novel co-consumption of glucose and xylose in S. cerevisiae. NcSWEET1 utilized 40.1% of both sugars, exceeding the 17.3% utilization demonstrated by the control HXT7(F79S) strain. Our results suggest that SWEETs from anaerobic fungi are beneficial tools for enhancing glucose and xylose co-utilization and offers a promising step towards biotechnological application of SWEETs in S. cerevisiae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Lignocellulose
  • Membrane proteins
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Sugar
  • Transporter
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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