CAZyme prediction in ascomycetous yeast genomes guides discovery of novel xylanolytic species with diverse capacities for hemicellulose hydrolysis
Journal article, 2021

Background: Ascomycetous yeasts from the kingdom fungi inhabit every biome in nature. While filamentous fungi have been studied extensively regarding their enzymatic degradation of the complex polymers comprising lignocellulose, yeasts have been largely overlooked. As yeasts are key organisms used in industry, understanding their enzymatic strategies for biomass conversion is an important factor in developing new and more efficient cell factories. The aim of this study was to identify polysaccharide-degrading yeasts by mining CAZymes in 332 yeast genomes from the phylum Ascomycota. Selected CAZyme-rich yeasts were then characterized in more detail through growth and enzymatic activity assays. Results: The CAZyme analysis revealed a large spread in the number of CAZyme-encoding genes in the ascomycetous yeast genomes. We identified a total of 217 predicted CAZyme families, including several CAZymes likely involved in degradation of plant polysaccharides. Growth characterization of 40 CAZyme-rich yeasts revealed no cellulolytic yeasts, but several species from the Trichomonascaceae and CUG-Ser1 clades were able to grow on xylan, mixed-linkage β-glucan and xyloglucan. Blastobotrys mokoenaii, Sugiyamaella lignohabitans, Spencermartinsiella europaea and several Scheffersomyces species displayed superior growth on xylan and well as high enzymatic activities. These species possess genes for several putative xylanolytic enzymes, including ones from the well-studied xylanase-containing glycoside hydrolase families GH10 and GH30, which appear to be attached to the cell surface. B. mokoenaii was the only species containing a GH11 xylanase, which was shown to be secreted. Surprisingly, no known xylanases were predicted in the xylanolytic species Wickerhamomyces canadensis, suggesting that this yeast possesses novel xylanases. In addition, by examining non-sequenced yeasts closely related to the xylanolytic yeasts, we were able to identify novel species with high xylanolytic capacities. Conclusions: Our approach of combining high-throughput bioinformatic CAZyme-prediction with growth and enzyme characterization proved to be a powerful pipeline for discovery of novel xylan-degrading yeasts and enzymes. The identified yeasts display diverse profiles in terms of growth, enzymatic activities and xylan substrate preferences, pointing towards different strategies for degradation and utilization of xylan. Together, the results provide novel insights into how yeast degrade xylan, which can be used to improve cell factory design and industrial bioconversion processes.



Non-conventional yeasts


Xylanolytic yeasts



Jonas Ravn

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Martin Engqvist

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Systems and Synthetic Biology

Johan Larsbrink

Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC)

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Cecilia Geijer

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Biotechnology for Biofuels

17546834 (ISSN) 1754-6834 (eISSN)

Vol. 14 1 150

Subject Categories


Bioinformatics (Computational Biology)

Biocatalysis and Enzyme Technology





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