High expression of XYL2 coding for xylitol dehydrogenase is necessary for efficient xylose fermentation by engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Soo Rin Kim, Suk Jin Ha, In Iok Kong, Yong Su Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The traditional ethanologenic yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae cannot metabolize xylose, which is an abundant sugar in non-crop plants. Engineering this yeast for a practicable fermentation of xylose will therefore improve the economics of bioconversion for the production of fuels and chemicals such as ethanol. One of the most widely employed strategies is to express XYL1, XYL2, and XYL3 genes derived from Scheffersomyces stipitis (formerly Pichia stiptis) in S. cerevisiae. However, the resulting engineered strains have been reported to exhibit large variations in xylitol accumulation and ethanol yields, generating many hypotheses and arguments for elucidating these phenomena. Here we demonstrate that low expression levels of the XYL2 gene, coding for xylitol dehydrogenase (XDH), is a major bottleneck in efficient xylose fermentation. Through an inverse metabolic engineering approach using a genomic library of S. cerevisiae, XYL2 was identified as an overexpression target for improving xylose metabolism. Specifically, we performed serial subculture experiments after transforming a genomic library of wild type S. cerevisiae into an engineered strain harboring integrated copies of XYL1, XYL2 and XYL3. Interestingly, the isolated plasmids from efficient xylose-fermenting transformants contained XYL2. This suggests that the integrated XYL2 migrated into a multi-copy plasmid through homologous recombination. It was also found that additional overexpression of XYL2 under the control of strong constitutive promoters in a xylose-fermenting strain not only reduced xylitol accumulation, but also increased ethanol yields. As the expression levels of XYL2 increased, the ethanol yields gradually improved from 0.1 to 0.3. g ethanol/g xylose, while the xylitol yields significantly decreased from 0.4 to 0.1. g xylitol/g xylose. These results suggest that strong expression of XYL2 is a necessary condition for developing efficient xylose-fermenting strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-343
Number of pages8
JournalMetabolic Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Bioethanol
  • Saccharomyces
  • XYL2
  • Xylitol dehydrogenase
  • Xylose
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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