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Quantitative Proteome Profiling Reveals Cellobiose-Dependent Protein Processing and Export Pathways for the Lignocellulolytic Response in Neurospora crassa.


Filamentous fungi are intensively used for producing industrial enzymes, including lignocellulases. Employing insoluble cellulose to induce the production of lignocellulases causes some drawbacks, e.g., a complex fermentation operation, which can be overcome by using soluble inducers such as cellobiose. Here, a triple β-glucosidase mutant of Neurospora crassa, which prevents rapid turnover of cellobiose and thus allows the disaccharide to induce lignocellulases, was applied to profile the proteome responses to cellobiose and cellulose (Avicel). Our results revealed a shared proteomic response to cellobiose and Avicel, whose elements included lignocellulases and cellulolytic product transporters. While the cellulolytic proteins showed a correlated increase in protein and mRNA levels, only a moderate correlation was observed on a proteomic scale between protein and mRNA levels (R2 = 0.31). Ribosome biogenesis and rRNA processing were significantly overrepresented in the protein set with increased protein but unchanged mRNA abundances in response to Avicel. Ribosome biogenesis, as well as protein processing and protein export, was also enriched in the protein set that showed increased abundance in response to cellobiose. NCU05895, a homolog of yeast CWH43, is potentially involved in transferring a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor to nascent proteins. This protein showed increased abundance but no significant change in mRNA levels. Disruption of CWH43 resulted in a significant decrease in cellulase activities and secreted protein levels in cultures grown on Avicel, suggesting a positive regulatory role for CWH43 in cellulase production. The findings should have an impact on a systems engineering approach for strain improvement for the production of lignocellulases.IMPORTANCE Lignocellulases are important industrial enzymes for sustainable production of biofuels and bio-products. Insoluble cellulose has been commonly used to induce the production of lignocellulases in filamentous fungi, which causes a difficult fermentation operation and enzyme loss due to adsorption to cellulose. The disadvantages can be overcome by using soluble inducers, such as the disaccharide cellobiose. Quantitative proteome profiling of the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa revealed cellobiose-dependent pathways for cellulase production, including protein processing and export. A protein (CWH43) potentially involved in protein processing was found to be a positive regulator of lignocellulase production. The cellobiose-dependent mechanisms provide new opportunities to improve the production of lignocellulases in filamentous fungi.

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