Directed evolution and secretory expression of xylose isomerase for improved utilisation of xylose in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Jung Hoon Bae, Mi Jin Kim, Bong Hyun Sung, Yong Su Jin, Jung Hoon Sohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Xylose contained in lignocellulosic biomass is an attractive carbon substrate for economically viable conversion to bioethanol. Extensive research has been conducted on xylose fermentation using recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae expressing xylose isomerase (XI) and xylose reductase/xylitol dehydrogenase (XR/XDH) pathways along with the introduction of a xylose transporter and amplification of the downstream pathway. However, the low utilization of xylose in the presence of glucose, due to the varying preference for cellular uptake, is a lingering challenge. Studies so far have mainly focused on xylose utilization inside the cells, but there have been little trials on the conversion of xylose to xylulose by cell before uptake. We hypothesized that the extracellular conversion of xylose to xylulose before uptake would facilitate better utilization of xylose even in the presence of glucose. To verify this, XI from Piromyces sp. was engineered and hyper-secreted in S. cerevisiae for the extracellular conversion of xylose to xylulose. Results: The optimal pH of XI was lowered from 7.0 to 5.0 by directed evolution to ensure its high activity under the acidic conditions used for yeast fermentation, and hyper-secretion of an engineered XI-76 mutant (E56A and I252M) was accomplished by employing target protein-specific translational fusion partners. The purified XI-76 showed twofold higher activity than that of the wild type at pH 5. The secretory expression of XI-76 in the previously developed xylose utilizing yeast strain, SR8 increased xylose consumption and ethanol production by approximately 7–20% and 15–20% in xylose fermentation and glucose and xylose co-fermentation, respectively. Conclusions: Isomerisation of xylose to xylulose before uptake using extracellular XI was found to be effective in xylose fermentation or glucose/xylose co-fermentation. This suggested that glucose competed less with xylulose than with xylose for uptake by the cell. Consequently, the engineered XI secretion system constructed in this study can pave the way for simultaneous utilization of C5/C6 sugars from the sustainable lignocellulosic biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number223
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Co-fermentation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Secretion
  • Xylose
  • Xylose isomerase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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