- Exploring metabolic engineering design principles for the photosynthetic production of lactic acid by Synechocystis sp. PCC6803
- Biotechnology for Biofuels
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
Background: Molecular engineering of the intermediary physiology of cyanobacteria has become important for the sustainable production of biofuels and commodity compounds from CO2 and sunlight by "designer microbes." The chemical commodity product L-lactic acid can be synthesized in one step from a key intermediary metabolite of these organisms, pyruvate, catalyzed by a lactate dehydrogenase. Synthetic biology engineering to make "designer microbes" includes the introduction and overexpression of the product-forming biochemical pathway. For further optimization of product formation, modifications in the surrounding biochemical network of intermediary metabolism have to be made.
Results: To improve light-driven L-lactic acid production from CO2, we explored several metabolic engineering design principles, using a previously engineered L-lactic acid producing mutant strain of Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 as the benchmark. These strategies included: (i) increasing the expression level of the relevant product-forming enzyme, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), for example, via expression from a replicative plasmid; (ii) co-expression of a heterologous pyruvate kinase to increase the flux towards pyruvate; and (iii) knockdown of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase to decrease the flux through a competing pathway (from phosphoenolpyruvate to oxaloacetate). In addition, we tested selected lactate dehydrogenases, some of which were further optimized through site-directed mutagenesis to improve the enzyme’s affinity for the co-factor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). The carbon partitioning between biomass and lactic acid was increased from about 5% to over 50% by strain optimization.
Conclusion: An efficient photosynthetic microbial cell factory will display a high rate and extent of conversion of substrate (CO2) into product (here: L-lactic acid). In the existing CO2-based cyanobacterial cell factories that have been described in the literature, by far most of the control over product formation resides in the genetically introduced fermentative pathway. Here we show that a strong promoter, in combination with increased gene expression, can take away a significant part of the control of this step in lactic acid production from CO2. Under these premises, modulation of the intracellular precursor, pyruvate, can significantly increase productivity. Additionally, production enhancement is achieved by protein engineering to increase co-factor specificity of the heterologously expressed LDH.
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