Securing a furan-based biorefinery: disclosing the genetic basis of the degradation of hydroxymethylfurfural and its derivatives in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans

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Abstract

Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a promising lignocellulosic-derived source for the generation of diverse chemical building blocks constituting an alternative to fossil fuels. However, it remains unanswered if ubiquitous fungi can ensure their efficient decay, similar to that observed in highly specialised fungi. To disclose the genetic basis of HMF degradation in aspergilli, we performed a comprehensive analysis of Aspergillus nidulans ability to tolerate and to degrade HMF and its derivatives (including an HMF-dimer). We identified the degradation pathway using a suite of metabolomics methods and showed that HMF was modified throughout sequential reactions, ultimately yielding derivatives subsequently channelled to the TCA cycle. Based on the previously revealed hmfFGH gene cluster of Cupriavidus basilensis, we combined gene expression of homologous genes in Aspergillus nidulans and functional analyses in single-deletion mutants. Results were complemented with orthology analyses across the genomes of twenty-five fungal species. Our results support high functional redundancy for the initial steps of the HMF degradation pathway in the majority of the analysed fungal genomes and the assignment of a single-copy furan-2,5-dicarboxylic acid decarboxylase gene in A. nidulans. Collectively our data made apparent the superior capacity of aspergilli to mineralise HMF, furthering the environmental sustainability of a furan-based chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1983-1996
Number of pages14
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Volume13
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

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