Improving ethanol and xylitol fermentation at elevated temperature through substitution of xylose reductase in Kluyveromyces marxianus

  • Biao Zhang
  • Lulu Li
  • Jia Zhang
  • Xiaolian Gao
  • Dongmei WangEmail author
  • Jiong HongEmail author


Thermo-tolerant yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus is able to utilize a wide range of substrates, including xylose; however, the xylose fermentation ability is weak because of the redox imbalance under oxygen-limited conditions. Alleviating the intracellular redox imbalance through engineering the coenzyme specificity of NADPH-preferring xylose reductase (XR) and improving the expression of XR should promote xylose consumption and fermentation. In this study, the native xylose reductase gene (Kmxyl1) of the K. marxianus strain was substituted with XR or its mutant genes from Pichia stipitis (Scheffersomyces stipitis). The ability of the resultant recombinant strains to assimilate xylose to produce xylitol and ethanol at elevated temperature was greatly improved. The strain YZB014 expressing mutant PsXR N272D, which has a higher activity with both NADPH and NADH as the coenzyme, achieved the best results, and produced 3.55 g l−1 ethanol and 11.32 g l−1 xylitol—an increase of 12.24- and 2.70-fold in product at 42 °C, respectively. A 3.94-fold increase of xylose consumption was observed compared with the K. marxianus YHJ010 harboring KmXyl1. However, the strain YZB015 expressing a mutant PsXR K21A/N272D, with which co-enzyme preference was completely reversed from NADPH to NADH, failed to ferment due to the low expression. So in order to improve xylose consumption and fermentation in K. marxianus, both higher activity and co-enzyme specificity change are necessary.


Ethanol Kluyveromyces marxianus Corncob hydrolysate Xylose reductase Thermo-tolerant yeast 



We thank Professor Tamaki Hisanori from Kagoshima University and Kumagai Hidehiko from Ishikawa Prefectural University for providing the K. marxianus YHJ010 and plasmids. We also thank Professor Sun Lianhong for all the useful discussions. This work was supported by a grant-in-aid from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31070028), the National Basic Research Program of China (2011CBA00801), and the Project-sponsored by the Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars, State Education Ministry (WF2070000010).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 777 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life ScienceUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Science at the MicroscaleHefeiPeople’s Republic of China

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