Encapsulation enhances protoplast fusant stability

Jordan Gulli, Eugene Kroll, Frank Rosenzweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A barrier to cost-efficient biomanufacturing is the instability of engineered genetic elements, such as plasmids. Instability can also manifest at the whole-genome level, when fungal dikaryons revert to parental species due to nuclear segregation during cell division. Here, we show that by encapsulating Saccharomyces cerevisiae-Pichia stipitis dikaryons in an alginate matrix, we can limit cell division and preserve their expanded metabolic capabilities. As a proxy to cellulosic ethanol production, we tested the capacity of such cells to carry out ethanologenic fermentation of glucose and xylose, examining substrate use, ploidy, and cell viability in relation to planktonic fusants, as well as in relation to planktonic and encapsulated cell cultures consisting of mixtures of these species. Glucose and xylose consumption and ethanol production by encapsulated dikaryons were greater than planktonic controls. Simultaneous co-fermentation did not occur; rather the order and kinetics of glucose and xylose catabolism by encapsulated dikaryons were similar to cultures where the two species were encapsulated together. Over repeated cycles of fed-batch culture, encapsulated S. cerevisiae-P. stipitis fusants exhibited a dramatic increase in genomic stability, relative to planktonic fusants. Encapsulation also increased the stability of antibiotic-resistance plasmids used to mark each species and preserved a fixed ratio of S. cerevisiae to P. stipitis cells in mixed cultures. Our data demonstrate how encapsulating cells in an extracellular matrix restricts cell division and, thereby, preserves the stability and biological activity of entities ranging from genomes to plasmids to mixed populations, each of which can be essential to cost-efficient biomanufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1696-1709
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Pichia stipitis
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • cell encapsulation
  • cellulosic fermentation
  • dikaryon
  • genomic stability
  • protoplast fusion


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