skip to main content

Title: Anaerobic Production of Isoprene by Engineered Methanosarcina Species Archaea
ABSTRACT Isoprene is a valuable petrochemical used for a wide variety of consumer goods, such as adhesives and synthetic rubber. We were able to achieve a high yield of renewable isoprene by taking advantage of the naturally high-flux mevalonate lipid synthesis pathway in anaerobic methane-producing archaea (methanogens). Our study illustrates that by genetically manipulating Methanosarcina species methanogens, it is possible to create organisms that grow by producing the hemiterpene isoprene. Mass balance measurements show that engineered methanogens direct up to 4% of total carbon flux to isoprene, demonstrating that methanogens produce higher isoprene yields than engineered yeast, bacteria, or cyanobacteria, and from inexpensive feedstocks. Expression of isoprene synthase resulted in increased biomass and changes in gene expression that indicate that isoprene synthesis depletes membrane precursors and redirects electron flux, enabling isoprene to be a major metabolic product. Our results demonstrate that methanogens are a promising engineering chassis for renewable isoprene synthesis. IMPORTANCE A significant barrier to implementing renewable chemical technologies is high production costs relative to those for petroleum-derived products. Existing technologies using engineered organisms have difficulty competing with petroleum-derived chemicals due to the cost of feedstocks (such as glucose), product extraction, and purification. The hemiterpene monomer isoprene is one more » such chemical that cannot currently be produced using cost-competitive renewable biotechnologies. To reduce the cost of renewable isoprene, we have engineered methanogens to synthesize it from inexpensive feedstocks such as methane, methanol, acetate, and carbon dioxide. The “isoprenogen” strains we developed have potential to be used for industrial production of inexpensive renewable isoprene. « less
; ; ;
Atomi, Haruyuki
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Wastewater biosolids are a promising feedstock for production of value-added renewable chemicals. Methane-producing archaea (methanogens) are already used to produce renewable biogas via the anaerobic treatment of wastewater. The ability of methanogens to efficiently convert dissolved organic carbon into methane makes them an appealing potential platform for biorefining using metabolic engineering. We have engineered a strain of the methanogen Methanosarcina acetivorans to produce the volatile hemiterpene isoprene in addition to methane. The engineered strain was adapted to grow in municipal wastewater through cultivation in a synthetic wastewater medium. When introduced to municipal wastewater the engineered methanogens were able to compete with the indigenous microorganisms and produce 0.97 mM of isoprene (65.9 ± 21.3 g per m3 of effluent). The production of isoprene in wastewater appears to be dependent on the quantity of available methanogenic substrate produced during upstream digestion by heterotrophic fermenters. This shows that with minimal adaptation it is possible to drop-in engineered methanogens to existing wastewater environments and attain value-added products in addition to the processing of wastewater. This shows the potential for utilizing methanogens as a platform for low-cost production of renewable materials without expensive feedstocks or the need to build or adapt existing facilities.
  2. Atomi, Haruyuki (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Altering metabolic flux at a key branch point in metabolism has commonly been accomplished through gene knockouts or by modulating gene expression. An alternative approach to direct metabolic flux preferentially toward a product is decreasing the activity of a key enzyme through protein engineering. In Escherichia coli , pyruvate can accumulate from glucose when carbon flux through the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex is suppressed. Based on this principle, 16 chromosomally expressed AceE variants were constructed in E. coli C and compared for growth rate and pyruvate accumulation using glucose as the sole carbon source. To prevent conversion of pyruvate to other products, the strains also contained deletions in two nonessential pathways: lactate dehydrogenase ( ldhA ) and pyruvate oxidase ( poxB ). The effect of deleting phosphoenolpyruvate synthase ( ppsA ) on pyruvate assimilation was also examined. The best pyruvate-accumulating strains were examined in controlled batch and continuous processes. In a nitrogen-limited chemostat process at steady-state growth rates of 0.15 to 0.28 h −1 , an engineered strain expressing the AceE[H106V] variant accumulated pyruvate at a yield of 0.59 to 0.66 g pyruvate/g glucose with a specific productivity of 0.78 to 0.92 g pyruvate/g cells·h. These results provide proof ofmore »concept that pyruvate dehydrogenase complex variants can effectively shift carbon flux away from central carbon metabolism to allow pyruvate accumulation. This approach can potentially be applied to other key enzymes in metabolism to direct carbon toward a biochemical product. IMPORTANCE Microbial production of biochemicals from renewable resources has become an efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional chemical synthesis methods. Metabolic engineering tools are important for optimizing a process to perform at an economically feasible level. This study describes an additional tool to modify central metabolism and direct metabolic flux to a product. We have shown that variants of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex can direct metabolic flux away from cell growth to increase pyruvate production in Escherichia coli . This approach could be paired with existing strategies to optimize metabolism and create industrially relevant and economically feasible processes.« less
  3. Methanogens are anaerobic archaea which conserve energy by producing methane. Found in nearly every anaerobic environment on earth, methanogens serve important roles in ecology as key organisms of the global carbon cycle, and in industry as a source of renewable biofuels. Environmentally, methanogenic archaea play an essential role in the reintroducing unavailable carbon to the carbon cycle by anaerobically converting low-energy, terminal metabolic degradation products such as one and two-carbon molecules into methane which then returns to the aerobic portion of the carbon cycle. In industry, methanogens are commonly used as an inexpensive source of renewable biofuels as well as serving as a vital component in the treatment of wastewater though this is only the tip of the iceberg with respect to their metabolic potential. In this review we will discuss how the efficient central metabolism of methanoarchaea could be harnessed for future biotechnology applications.
  4. Polyacetylenic lipids accumulate in various Apiaceae species after pathogen attack, suggesting that these compounds are naturally occurring pesticides and potentially valuable resources for crop improvement. These compounds also promote human health and slow tumor growth. Even though polyacetylenic lipids were discovered decades ago, the biosynthetic pathway underlying their production is largely unknown. To begin filling this gap and ultimately enable polyacetylene engineering, we studied polyacetylenes and their biosynthesis in the major Apiaceae crop carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus). Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, we identified three known polyacetylenes and assigned provisional structures to two novel polyacetylenes. We also quantified these compounds in carrot leaf, petiole, root xylem, root phloem, and root periderm extracts. Falcarindiol and falcarinol predominated and accumulated primarily in the root periderm. Since the multiple double and triple carbon-carbon bonds that distinguish polyacetylenes from ubiquitous fatty acids are often introduced by Δ12 oleic acid desaturase (FAD2)-type enzymes, we mined the carrot genome for FAD2 genes. We identified a FAD2 family with an unprecedented 24 members and analyzed public, tissue-specific carrot RNA-Seq data to identify coexpressed members with root periderm-enhanced expression. Six candidate genes were heterologously expressed individually and in combination in yeast and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), resultingmore »in the identification of one canonical FAD2 that converts oleic to linoleic acid, three divergent FAD2-like acetylenases that convert linoleic into crepenynic acid, and two bifunctional FAD2s with Δ12 and Δ14 desaturase activity that convert crepenynic into the further desaturated dehydrocrepenynic acid, a polyacetylene pathway intermediate. These genes can now be used as a basis for discovering other steps of falcarin-type polyacetylene biosynthesis, to modulate polyacetylene levels in plants, and to test the in planta function of these molecules. Many organisms implement specialized biochemical pathways to convert ubiquitous metabolites into bioactive chemical compounds. Since plants comprise the majority of the human diet, specialized plant metabolites play crucial roles not only in crop biology but also in human nutrition. Some asterids produce lipid compounds called polyacetylenes (for review, see Negri, 2015) that exhibit antifungal activity (Garrod et al., 1978; Kemp, 1978; Harding and Heale, 1980, 1981; Olsson and Svensson, 1996) and accumulate in response to fungal phytopathogen attack (De Wit and Kodde, 1981; Elgersma and Liem, 1989). These observations have led to the longstanding hypothesis that polyacetylenes are natural pesticides. These same lipid compounds exhibit cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines and slow tumor growth (Fujimoto and Satoh, 1988; Matsunaga et al., 1989, 1990; Cunsolo et al., 1993; Bernart et al., 1996; Kobaek-Larsen et al., 2005; Zidorn et al., 2005), making them important nutritional compounds. The major source of polyacetylenes in the human diet is carrot (Daucus carota L.). Carrot is one of the most important crop species in the Apiaceae, with rapidly increasing worldwide cultivation (Rubatzky et al., 1999; Dawid et al., 2015). The most common carrot polyacetylenes are C17 linear aliphatic compounds containing two conjugated carbon-carbon triple bonds, one or two carbon-carbon double bonds, and a diversity of additional in-chain oxygen-containing functional groups. In carrot, the most abundant of these compounds are falcarinol and falcarindiol (Dawid et al., 2015). Based on their structures, it has been hypothesized that these compounds (alias falcarin-type polyacetylenes) are derived from ubiquitous fatty acids. Indeed, biochemical investigations (Haigh et al., 1968; Bohlman, 1988), radio-chemical tracer studies (Barley et al., 1988), and the discovery of pathway intermediates (Jones et al., 1966; Kawazu et al., 1973) implicate a diversion of flux away from linolenate biosynthesis as the entry point into falcarin-type polyacetylene biosynthesis (for review, see Minto and Blacklock, 2008). The final steps of linolenate biosynthesis are the conversion of oleate to linoleate, mediated by fatty acid desaturase 2 (FAD2), and linoleate to linolenate, catalyzed by FAD3. Some plant species contain divergent forms of FAD2 that, instead of or in addition to converting oleate to linoleate, catalyze the installation of unusual in-chain functional groups such as hydroxyl groups, epoxy groups, conjugated double bonds, or carbon-carbon triple bonds into the acyl chain (Badami and Patil, 1980) and thus divert flux from linolenate production into the accumulation of unusual fatty acids. Previous work in parsley (Petroselinum crispum; Apiaceae) identified a divergent form of FAD2 that (1) was up-regulated in response to pathogen treatment and (2) when expressed in soybean embryos resulted in production of the monoyne crepenynate and, by the action of an unassigned enzyme, dehydrocrepenynate (Kirsch et al., 1997; Cahoon et al., 2003). The results of the parsley studies are consistent with a pathogen-responsive, divergent FAD2-mediated pathway that leads to acetylenic fatty acids. However, information regarding the branch point into acetylenic fatty acid production in agriculturally relevant carrot is still largely missing, in particular, the identification and functional characterization of enzymes that can divert carbon flux away from linolenate biosynthesis into the production of dehydrocrepenynate and ultimately falcarin-type polyacetylenes. Such genes, once identified, could be used in the future design of transgenic carrot lines with altered polyacetylene content, enabling direct testing of in planta polyacetylene function and potentially the engineering of pathogen-resistant, more nutritious carrots. These genes could also provide the foundation for further investigations of more basic aspects of plant biology, including the evolution of fatty acid-derived natural product biosynthesis pathways across the Asterid clade, as well as the role of these pathways and compounds in plant ecology and plant defense. Recently, a high-quality carrot genome assembly was released (Iorizzo et al., 2016), providing a foundation for genome-enabled studies of Apiaceous species. This study also provided publicly accessible RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) data from diverse carrot tissues. Using these resources, this study aimed to provide a detailed gas chromatography-based quantification of polyacetylenes in carrot tissues for which RNA-Seq data are available, then combine this information with bioinformatics analysis and heterologous expression to identify and characterize biosynthetic genes that underlie the major entry point into carrot polyacetylene biosynthesis. To achieve these goals, thin-layer chromatography (TLC) was combined with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gas chromatography-flame ionization detection to identify and quantify polyacetylenic metabolites in five different carrot tissues. Then the sequences and tissue expression profiles of potential FAD2 and FAD2-like genes annotated in the D. carota genome were compared with the metabolite data to identify candidate pathway genes, followed by biochemical functionality tests using yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisae) and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) as heterologous expression systems.« less
  5. ABSTRACT Chromosomal integration of heterologous metabolic pathways is optimal for industrially relevant fermentation, as plasmid-based fermentation causes extra metabolic burden and genetic instabilities. In this work, chromosomal integration was adapted for the production of mevalonate, which can be readily converted into β-methyl-δ-valerolactone, a monomer for the production of mechanically tunable polyesters. The mevalonate pathway, driven by a constitutive promoter, was integrated into the chromosome of Escherichia coli to replace the native fermentation gene adhE or ldhA . The engineered strains (CMEV-1 and CMEV-2) did not require inducer or antibiotic and showed slightly higher maximal productivities (0.38 to ∼0.43 g/liter/h) and yields (67.8 to ∼71.4% of the maximum theoretical yield) than those of the plasmid-based fermentation. Since the glycolysis pathway is the first module for mevalonate synthesis, atpFH deletion was employed to improve the glycolytic rate and the production rate of mevalonate. Shake flask fermentation results showed that the deletion of atpFH in CMEV-1 resulted in a 2.1-fold increase in the maximum productivity. Furthermore, enhancement of the downstream pathway by integrating two copies of the mevalonate pathway genes into the chromosome further improved the mevalonate yield. Finally, our fed-batch fermentation showed that, with deletion of the atpFH and sucA genes andmore »integration of two copies of the mevalonate pathway genes into the chromosome, the engineered strain CMEV-7 exhibited both high maximal productivity (∼1.01 g/liter/h) and high yield (86.1% of the maximum theoretical yield, 30 g/liter mevalonate from 61 g/liter glucose after 48 h in a shake flask). IMPORTANCE Metabolic engineering has succeeded in producing various chemicals. However, few of these chemicals are commercially competitive with the conventional petroleum-derived materials. In this work, chromosomal integration of the heterologous pathway and subsequent optimization strategies ensure stable and efficient (i.e., high-titer, high-yield, and high-productivity) production of mevalonate, which demonstrates the potential for scale-up fermentation. Among the optimization strategies, we demonstrated that enhancement of the glycolytic flux significantly improved the productivity. This result provides an example of how to tune the carbon flux for the optimal production of exogenous chemicals.« less