Biotechnology Letters, Vol.41, No.6-7, 823-836, 2019
Activation of alternative metabolic pathways diverts carbon flux away from isobutanol formation in an engineered Escherichia coli strain
ObjectiveMetabolic engineering efforts are guided by identifying gene targets for overexpression and/or deletion. Isobutanol, a biofuel candidate, is biosynthesized using the valine biosynthesis pathway and enzymes of the Ehrlich pathway. Most reported studies for isobutanol production in Escherichia coli employ multicopy plasmids, an approach that suffers from disadvantages such as plasmid instability, increased metabolic burden, and use of antibiotics to maintain selection pressure. Cofactor imbalance is another issue that may limit production of isobutanol, as two enzymes of the pathway utilize NADPH as a cofactor.ResultsTo address these issues, we constructed E. coli strains with chromosomally-integrated, codon-optimized isobutanol pathway genes (ilvGM, ilvC, kivd, adh) selected on the basis of their cofactor preferences. Genes involved in diverting pyruvate flux toward fermentation byproducts were deleted. Metabolite analyses of the constructed strains revealed extracellular accumulation of significant amounts of isobutyraldehyde, a pathway intermediate, and the overflow metabolites 2,3-butanediol and acetol.ConclusionsThese results demonstrate that the genetic modifications carried out led to activation of alternative pathways that diverted carbon flux toward formation of unwanted metabolites. The present study highlights how precursor metabolites can be metabolized through enzymatic routes that have not been considered important in previous studies due to the different strategies employed therein. The insights gained from the present study will allow rational genetic modification of host cells for production of metabolites of interest.