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Engineering Escherichia coli for Improved Production of Short-Chain-Length-co-Medium-Chain-Length Poly[(R)-3-hydroxyalkanoate] (SCL-co-MCL PHA) Copolymers from Renewable Nonfatty Acid Feedstocks

Tappel, Ryan C., Pan, Wenyang, Bergey, N. Scott, Wang, Qin, Patterson, Ivory L., Ozumba, Obiajulu A., Matsumoto, Ken’ichiro, Taguchi, Seiichi, Nomura, Christopher T.
ACS sustainable chemistry 2014 v.2 no.7 pp. 1879-1887
Escherichia coli, biochemical pathways, biodegradability, biosynthesis, carbon, composite polymers, feedstocks, glucose, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, polyethylene, polyhydroxyalkanoates, thermal properties, tissue engineering
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are biorenewable and biodegradable polyesters that have garnered attention as alternatives to more common petroleum-based polymers. One of the current limitations for the widespread use of PHAs is the inability to produce PHA polymers with desired material properties. Previous studies have shown that PHA copolymers consisting primarily of one short-chain-length (SCL) repeating unit and a small concentration of medium-chain-length (MCL) repeating units have physical properties resembling the petroleum-based plastic polyethylene. In addition, these SCL-co-MCL PHA copolymers have been investigated for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering. However, bacterial production of these SCL-co-MCL PHA copolymers is often at a much lower yield compared to SCL PHA biosynthesis produced from simple sugars such as glucose. Here, we report the highest yield to date of SCL-co-MCL PHA copolymers produced from glucose. Two separate biosynthetic pathways for SCL and MCL PHAs were introduced into Escherichia coli LS5218, and copolymer production experiments were carried out in batch fermentations. The PHA copolymers produced consisted of repeating units with 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 carbons at mol % concentrations similar to that of other SCL-co-MCL PHA copolymers reported to have desirable physical properties. The PHA repeating unit compositions, structures, and linkages between individual repeating unit types were analyzed by GC and NMR. The thermal properties of purified PHA copolymers were also examined. The engineered strain developed in this study (E. coli LS5218-STQKABGK) provides a platform to further increase PHA copolymer yields from unrelated carbon sources in a non-native PHA producing bacterial strain.