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Cowpea NAC Transcription Factors Positively Regulate Cellular Stress Response and Balance Energy Metabolism in Yeast via Reprogramming of Biosynthetic Pathways

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journal contribution
posted on 02.09.2021, 00:29 by Richa Srivastava, Lingaraj Sahoo
Yeast is a dominant host for recombinant production of heterologous proteins, high-value biochemical compounds, and microbial fermentation. During bioprocess operations, pH fluctuations, organic solvents, drying, starvation, osmotic pressure, and often a combination of these stresses cause growth inhibition or death, markedly limiting its industrial use. Thus, stress-tolerant yeast strains with balanced energy-bioenergetics are highly desirous for sustainable improvement of quality biotechnological production. We isolated two NAC transcription factors (TFs), VuNAC1 and VuNAC2, from a wild cowpea genotype, improving both stress tolerance and growth when expressed in yeast. The GFP-fused proteins were localized to the nucleus. Y2H and reporter assay demonstrated the dimerization and transactivation abilities of the VuNAC proteins having structural folds similar to rice SNAC1. The gel-shift assay indicated that the TFs recognize an “ATGCGTG” motif for DNA-binding shared by several native TFs in yeast. The heterologous expression of VuNAC1/2 in yeast improved growth, biomass, lifespan, fermentation efficiency, and altered cellular composition of biomolecules. The transgenic strains conferred tolerance to multiple stresses such as high salinity, osmotic stress, freezing, and aluminum toxicity. Analysis of the metabolome revealed reprogramming of major pathways synthesizing nucleotides, vitamin B complex, amino acids, antioxidants, flavonoids, and other energy currencies and cofactors. Consequently, the transcriptional tuning of stress signaling and biomolecule metabolism improved the survival of the transgenic strains during starvation and stress recovery. VuNAC1/2-based synthetic gene expression control may contribute to designing robust industrial yeast strains with value-added productivity.