Fermentation production of biofuel ethanol consumes agricultural crops, which will compete directly with the food supply. As an alternative, photosynthetic cyanobacteria have been proposed as microbial factories to produce ethanol directly from solar energy and CO2. However, the ethanol productivity from photoautotrophic cyanobacteria is still very low, mostly due to the low tolerance of cyanobacterial systems to ethanol stress.
To build a foundation necessary to engineer robust ethanol-producing cyanobacterial hosts, researchers at Tianjin University, China have applied a quantitative transcriptomics approach with a next-generation sequencing technology, combined with quantitative reverse-transcript PCR (RT-PCR) analysis, to reveal the global metabolic responses to ethanol in model cyanobacterial Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803.
The results showed that ethanol exposure induced genes involved in common stress responses, transporting and cell envelope modification. In addition, the cells can also utilize enhanced polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) accumulation and glyoxalase detoxication pathway as means against ethanol stress. The up-regulation of photosynthesis by ethanol was also further confirmed at transcriptional level. Finally, the researchers used gene knockout strains to validate the potential target genes related to ethanol tolerance.
RNA-Seq based global transcriptomic analysis provided a comprehensive view of cellular response to ethanol exposure. The analysis provided a list of gene targets for engineering ethanol tolerance in cyanobacterium Synechocystis.
- Wang J, Chen L, Huang S, Liu J, Ren X, Tian X, Qiao J, Zhang W. (2012) RNA-seq based identification and mutant validation of gene targets related to ethanol resistance in cyanobacterial Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Biotechnol Biofuels 5(1):89. [abstract]