Transcriptomic characterization of Caecomyces churrovis: a novel, non-rhizoid-forming lignocellulolytic anaerobic fungus

Anaerobic gut fungi are the primary colonizers of plant material in the rumen microbiome, but are poorly studied due to a lack of characterized isolates. While most genera of gut fungi form extensive rhizoidal networks, which likely participate in mechanical disruption of plant cell walls, fungi within the Caecomyces genus do not possess these rhizoids. Here, we describe a novel fungal isolate, Caecomyces churrovis, which forms spherical sporangia with a limited rhizoidal network yet secretes a diverse set of carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) for plant cell wall hydrolysis. Despite lacking an extensive rhizoidal system, C. churrovis is capable of growth on fibrous substrates like switchgrass, reed canary grass, and corn stover, although faster growth is observed on soluble sugars. Gut fungi have been shown to use enzyme complexes (fungal cellulosomes) in which CAZymes bind to non-catalytic scaffoldins to improve biomass degradation efficiency. However, transcriptomic analysis and enzyme activity assays reveal that C. churrovis relies more on free enzymes compared to other gut fungal isolates. Only 15% of CAZyme transcripts contain non-catalytic dockerin domains in C. churrovis, compared to 30% in rhizoid-forming fungi. Furthermore, C. churrovis is enriched in GH43 enzymes that provide complementary hemicellulose degrading activities, suggesting that a wider variety of these activities are required to degrade plant biomass in the absence of an extensive fungal rhizoid network. Overall, molecular characterization of a non-rhizoid-forming anaerobic fungus fills a gap in understanding the roles of CAZyme abundance and associated degradation mechanisms during lignocellulose breakdown within the rumen microbiome.

John K. Henske, Sean P. Gilmore, Doriv Knop, Francis J. Cunningham, Jessica A. Sexton, Chuck R. Smallwood, Vaithiyalingam Shutthanandan, James E. Evans, Michael K. Theodorou and Michelle A. O’Malley
Biotechnology for Biofuels
Volume: 10
Number: 305
Pages: 1-12
Date: December, 2017
ICB Affiliated Authors: Michelle A O'Malley