Biotechnology for Biofuels 14(1) , 234 ( 2021)
Anaerobic fungi and methanogenic archaea are two classes of microorganisms found in the rumen microbiome that metabolically interact during lignocellulose breakdown. Here, stable synthetic co-cultures of the anaerobic fungus Caecomyces churrovis and the methanogen Methanobacterium bryantii (not native to the rumen) were formed, demonstrating that microbes from different environments can be paired based on metabolic ties. Transcriptional and metabolic changes induced by methanogen co-culture were evaluated in C. churrovis across a variety of substrates to identify mechanisms that impact biomass breakdown and sugar uptake. A high-quality genome of C. churrovis was obtained and annotated, which is the first sequenced genome of a non-rhizoid-forming anaerobic fungus. C. churrovis possess an abundance of CAZymes and carbohydrate binding modules and, in agreement with previous studies of early-diverging fungal lineages, N6-methyldeoxyadenine (6mA) was associated with transcriptionally active genes. Co-culture with the methanogen increased overall transcription of CAZymes, carbohydrate binding modules, and dockerin domains in co-cultures grown on both lignocellulose and cellulose and caused upregulation of genes coding associated enzymatic machinery including carbohydrate binding modules in family 18 and dockerin domains across multiple growth substrates relative to C. churrovis monoculture. Two other fungal strains grown on a reed canary grass substrate in co-culture with the same methanogen also exhibited high log2-fold change values for upregulation of genes encoding carbohydrate binding modules in families 1 and 18. Transcriptional upregulation indicated that co-culture of the C. churrovis strain with a methanogen may enhance pyruvate formate lyase (PFL) function for growth on xylan and fructose and production of bottleneck enzymes in sugar utilization pathways, further supporting the hypothesis that co-culture with a methanogen may enhance certain fungal metabolic functions. Upregulation of CBM18 may play a role in fungal–methanogen physical associations and fungal cell wall development and remodeling.