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Engineering cofactor metabolism for improved protein and glucoamylase production in Aspergillus niger

Sui, Yu-fei; Schütze, Tabea; Ouyang, Li-ming; Lu, Hongzhong; Liu, Peng; Xiao, Xianzun; Qi, Jie; Zhuang, Ying-Ping; Meyer, Vera

Background: Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) is an important cofactor ensuring intracellular redox balance, anabolism and cell growth in all living systems. Our recent multi-omics analyses of glucoamylase (GlaA) biosynthesis in the filamentous fungal cell factory Aspergillus niger indicated that low availability of NADPH might be a limiting factor for GlaA overproduction. Results: We thus employed the Design-Build-Test-Learn cycle for metabolic engineering to identify and prioritize effective cofactor engineering strategies for GlaA overproduction. Based on available metabolomics and 13 C metabolic flux analysis data, we individually overexpressed seven predicted genes encoding NADPH generation enzymes under the control of the Tet-on gene switch in two A. niger recipient strains, one carrying a single and one carrying seven glaA gene copies, respectively, to test their individual effects on GlaA and total protein overproduction. Both strains were selected to understand if a strong pull towards glaA biosynthesis (seven gene copies) mandates a higher NADPH supply compared to the native condition (one gene copy). Detailed analysis of all 14 strains cultivated in shake flask cultures uncovered that overexpression of the gsdA gene (glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase), gndA gene (6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase) and maeA gene (NADP-dependent malic enzyme) supported GlaA production on a subtle (10%) but significant level in the background strain carrying seven glaA gene copies. We thus performed maltose-limited chemostat cultures combining metabolome analysis for these three isolates to characterize metabolic-level fluctuations caused by cofactor engineering. In these cultures, overexpression of either the gndA or maeA gene increased the intracellular NADPH pool by 45% and 66%, and the yield of GlaA by 65% and 30%, respectively. In contrast, overexpression of the gsdA gene had a negative effect on both total protein and glucoamylase production. Conclusions: This data suggests for the first time that increased NADPH availability can indeed underpin protein and especially GlaA production in strains where a strong pull towards GlaA biosynthesis exists. This data also indicates that the highest impact on GlaA production can be engineered on a genetic level by increasing the flux through the pentose phosphate pathway ( gndA gene) followed by engineering the flux through the reverse TCA cycle ( maeA gene). We thus propose that NADPH cofactor engineering is indeed a valid strategy for metabolic engineering of A. niger to improve GlaA production, a strategy which is certainly also applicable to the rational design of other microbial cell factories.
Published in: Microbial Cell Factories, 10.1186/s12934-020-01450-w, SpringerNature