Modern morphological engineering techniques for improving productivity of filamentous fungi in submerged cultures
The present study describes the design of bio-pellet morphologies of the industrial working horse Aspergillus niger strains in submerged culture. The novel approach recruits the intended addition of titanate microparticles (TiSiO(4), 8 µm) to the growth medium. As tested for two recombinant strains producing fructofuranosidase and glucoamylase, the enzyme titer by the titanate-enhanced cultures in shake flasks was increased 3.7-fold to 150 U/mL (for fructofuranosidase) and 9.5-fold to 190 U/mL (for glucoamylase) as compared to the control. This could be successfully utilized for improved enzyme production in stirred tank reactors. Stimulated by the particles, the achieved final glucoamylase activity of 1,080 U/mL (fed-batch) and 320 U/mL (batch) was sevenfold higher as compared to the conventional processes. The major reason for the enhanced production was the close association between the titanate particles and the fungal cells. Already below 2.5 g/L the micromaterial was found inside the pellets, including single particles embedded as 50-150 µm particle aggregates in the center resulting in core shell pellets. With increasing titanate levels the pellet size decreased from 1,700 µm (control) to 300 µm. Fluorescence based resolution of GFP expression revealed that the large pellets of the control were only active in a 200 µm surface layer. This matches with the critical penetration depth for nutrients and oxygen typically observed for fungal pellets. The biomass within the titanate derived fungal pellets, however, was completely active. This was due a reduced thickness of the biomass layer via smaller pellets as well as the core shell structure. Moreover, also the created loose inner pellet structure enabled a higher mass transfer and penetration depths for up to 500 µm. The creation of core-shell pellets has not been achieved previously by the addition of microparticles, for example, made of talc or alumina. Due to this, the present work opens further possibilities to use microparticles for tailor-made morphology design of filamentous fungi, especially for pellet based processes which have a long and strong industrial relevance for industrial production.