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A modular metabolic engineering approach for the production of 1,2-propanediol from glycerol by Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Islam, Zia-ul, Klein, Mathias, Aßkamp, Maximilian R., Ødum, Anders S.R., Nevoigt, Elke
Metabolic engineering 2017 v.44 pp. 223-235
NAD (coenzyme), Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ammonium sulfate, biochemical pathways, bioreactors, ethanol, feedstocks, fermentation, fermented foods, genetic engineering, glycerol, metabolic engineering, nitrogen, phosphates, triose-phosphate isomerase, urea, yeasts
Compared to sugars, a major advantage of using glycerol as a feedstock for industrial bioprocesses is the fact that this molecule is more reduced than sugars. A compound whose biotechnological production might greatly profit from the substrate's higher reducing power is 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDO). Here we present a novel metabolic engineering approach to produce 1,2-PDO from glycerol in S. cerevisiae. Apart from implementing the heterologous methylglyoxal (MG) pathway for 1,2-PDO formation from dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) and expressing a heterologous glycerol facilitator, the employed genetic modifications included the replacement of the native FAD-dependent glycerol catabolic pathway by the 'DHA pathway' for delivery of cytosolic NADH and the reduction of triosephosphate isomerase (TPI) activity for increased precursor (DHAP) supply. The choice of the medium had a crucial impact on both the strength of the metabolic switch towards fermentation in general (as indicated by the production of ethanol and 1,2-PDO) and on the ratio at which these two fermentation products were formed. For example, virtually no 1,2-PDO but only ethanol was formed in synthetic glycerol medium with urea as the nitrogen source. When nutrient-limited complex YG medium was used, significant amounts of 1,2-PDO were formed and it became obvious that the concerted supply of NADH and DHAP are essential for boosting 1,2-PDO production. Additionally, optimizing the flux into the MG pathway improved 1,2-PDO formation at the expense of ethanol. Cultivation of the best-performing strain in YG medium and a controlled bioreactor set-up resulted in a maximum titer of > 4gL⁻¹ 1,2-PDO which, to the best of our knowledge, has been the highest titer of 1,2-PDO obtained in yeast so far. Surprisingly, significant 1,2-PDO production was also obtained in synthetic glycerol medium after changing the nitrogen source towards ammonium sulfate and adding a buffer.