High level secretion of cellobiohydrolases by Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Marja Ilmen, Riaan den Haan, Elena Brevnova, John McBride, Erin Wiswall, Allan Froehlich, Anu Koivula, Sanni P. Voutilainen, Matti Siika-Aho, Daniel C. la Grange, Naomi Thorngren, Simon Ahlgren, Mark Mellon, Kristen Deleault, Vineet Rajgarhia, Willem H. van Zyl, Merja Penttilä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: The main technological impediment to widespread utilization of lignocellulose for the production of fuels and chemicals is the lack of low-cost technologies to overcome its recalcitrance. Organisms that hydrolyze lignocellulose and produce a valuable product such as ethanol at a high rate and titer could significantly reduce the costs of biomass conversion technologies, and will allow separate conversion steps to be combined in a consolidated bioprocess (CBP). Development of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for CBP requires the high level secretion of cellulases, particularly cellobiohydrolases.

Results: We expressed various cellobiohydrolases to identify enzymes that were efficiently secreted by S. cerevisiae. For enhanced cellulose hydrolysis, we engineered bimodular derivatives of a well secreted enzyme that naturally lacks the carbohydrate-binding module, and constructed strains expressing combinations of cbh1 and cbh2 genes. Though there was significant variability in the enzyme levels produced, up to approximately 0.3 g/L CBH1 and approximately 1 g/L CBH2 could be produced in high cell density fermentations. Furthermore, we could show activation of the unfolded protein response as a result of cellobiohydrolase production. Finally, we report fermentation of microcrystalline cellulose (Avicel T) to ethanol by CBH-producing S. cerevisiae strains with the addition of beta-glucosidase.

Conclusions: Gene or protein specific features and compatibility with the host are important for efficient cellobiohydrolase secretion in yeast. The present work demonstrated that production of both CBH1 and CBH2 could be improved to levels where the barrier to CBH sufficiency in the hydrolysis of cellulose was overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2011
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biofuels
  • cellulolytic yeast
  • UPR
  • GENE


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