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Construction of a novel anaerobic pathway in Escherichia coli for propionate production

Li, Jing, Zhu, Xinna, Chen, Jing, Zhao, Dongdong, Zhang, Xueli, Bi, Changhao
BMC biotechnology 2017 v.17 no.1 pp. 38
Escherichia coli, Methylobacterium extorquens, Propionibacterium, biosynthesis, cellulosic fibers, drugs, energy, fermentation, fermented foods, gene overexpression, genetic engineering, genetically modified organisms, glucose, herbicides, industrial applications, metabolic engineering, methylmalonyl-coenzyme A, operon, perfumes, promoter regions, propionic acid, succinic acid, tricarboxylic acid cycle
BACKGROUND: Propionate is widely used as an important preservative and important chemical intermediate for synthesis of cellulose fibers, herbicides, perfumes and pharmaceuticals. Biosynthetic propionate has mainly been produced by Propionibacterium, which has various limitations for industrial application. RESULTS: In this study, we engineered E. coli by combining reduced TCA cycle with the native sleeping beauty mutase (Sbm) cycle to construct a redox balanced and energy viable fermentation pathway for anaerobic propionate production. As the cryptic Sbm operon was over-expressed in E. coli MG1655, propionate titer reached 0.24 g/L. To increase precursor supply for the Sbm cycle, genetic modification was made to convert mixed fermentation products to succinate, which slightly increased propionate production. For optimal expression of Sbm operon, different types of promoters were examined. A strong constitutive promoter Pbba led to the highest titer of 2.34 g/L. Methylmalonyl CoA mutase from Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 was added to strain T110(pbba-Sbm) to enhance this rate limiting step. With optimized expression of this additional Methylmalonyl CoA mutase, the highest production strain was obtained with a titer of 4.95 g/L and a yield of 0.49 mol/mol glucose. CONCLUSIONS: With various metabolic engineering strategies, the propionate titer from fermentation achieved 4.95 g/L. This is the reported highest anaerobic production of propionate by heterologous host. Due to host advantages, such as non-strict anaerobic condition, mature engineering and fermentation techniques, and low cost minimal media, our work has built the basis for industrial propionate production with E. coli chassis.