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Title: Photobiological production of high-value pigments via compartmentalized co-cultures using Ca-alginate hydrogels

Engineered cyanobacteriumSynechococcus elongatuscan use light and CO2to produce sucrose, making it a promising candidate for use in co-cultures with heterotrophic workhorses. However, this process is challenged by the mutual stresses generated from the multispecies microbial culture. Here we demonstrate an ecosystem whereS. elongatusis freely grown in a photo-bioreactor (PBR) containing an engineered heterotrophic workhorse (either β-carotene-producingYarrowia lipolytica or indigoidine-producingPseudomonas putida) encapsulated in calcium-alginate hydrogel beads. The encapsulation prevents growth interference, allowing the cyanobacterial culture to produce high sucrose concentrations enabling the production of indigoidine and β-carotene in the heterotroph. Our experimental PBRs yielded an indigoidine titer of 7.5 g/L hydrogel and a β-carotene titer of 1.3 g/L hydrogel, amounts 15–22-fold higher than in a comparable co-culture without encapsulation. Moreover,13C-metabolite analysis and protein overexpression tests indicated that the hydrogel beads provided a favorable microenvironment where the cell metabolism inside the hydrogel was comparable to that in a free culture. Finally, the heterotroph-containing hydrogels were easily harvested and dissolved by EDTA for product recovery, while the cyanobacterial culture itself could be reused for the next batch of immobilized heterotrophs. This co-cultivation and hydrogel encapsulation system is a successful demonstration of bioprocess optimization under photobioreactor conditions.

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Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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