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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

A bottom-up approach towards a bacterial consortium for the biotechnological conversion of chitin to L-lysine

Vortmann, Marina; Stumpf, Anna K.; Sgobba, Elvira; Dirks-Hofmeister, Mareike E.; Krehenbrink, Martin; Wendisch, Volker F.; Philipp, Bodo; Moerschbacher, Bruno M.


Chitin is an abundant waste product from shrimp and mushroom industries and as such, an appropriate secondary feedstock for biotechnological processes. However, chitin is a crystalline substrate embedded in complex biological matrices, and, therefore, difficult to utilize, requiring an equally complex chitinolytic machinery. Following a bottom-up approach, we here describe the step-wise development of a mutualistic, non-competitive consortium in which a lysine-auxotrophic Escherichia coli substrate converter cleaves the chitin monomer N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) into glucosamine (GlcN) and acetate, but uses only acetate while leaving GlcN for growth of the lysine-secreting Corynebacterium glutamicum producer strain. We first engineered the substrate converter strain for growth on acetate but not GlcN, and the producer strain for growth on GlcN but not acetate. Growth of the two strains in co-culture in the presence of a mixture of GlcN and acetate was stabilized through lysine cross-feeding. Addition of recombinant chitinase to cleave chitin into GlcNAc(2), chitin deacetylase to convert GlcNAc(2) into GlcN(2) and acetate, and glucosaminidase to cleave GlcN(2) into GlcN supported growth of the two strains in co-culture in the presence of colloidal chitin as sole carbon source. Substrate converter strains secreting a chitinase or a beta-1,4-glucosaminidase degraded chitin to GlcNAc(2) or GlcN(2) to GlcN, respectively, but required glucose for growth. In contrast, by cleaving GlcNAc into GlcN and acetate, a chitin deacetylase-expressing substrate converter enabled growth of the producer strain in co-culture with GlcNAc as sole carbon source, providing proof-of-principle for a fully integrated co-culture for the biotechnological utilization of chitin.


Microbial consortia; Chitin; N-acetylglucosamine; Escherichia coli; Corynebacterium glutamicum; Cross-feeding

Published in

Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
2021, volume: 105, number: 4, pages: 1547-1561
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Vortmann, Marina
University of Munster
Stumpf, Anna K.
University of Munster
Bielefeld University
Dirks-Hofmeister, Mareike E.
WeissBioTech GmbH
Krehenbrink, Martin
Cysal GmbH
Wendisch, Volker F.
University of Bielefeld
Philipp, Bodo
University of Munster
Moerschbacher, Bruno M.
University of Munster

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