E. coli fatty acid biosynthesis system could more efficiently convert biomass to desired products

July 1, 2016, US Department of Energy
An electron micrograph shows rod-shaped E. coli secreting oil droplets containing biodiesel fuel, along with fatty acids and alcohol. Credit: US Department of Energy

Valuable chemicals and fuels have been produced in engineered strains of Escherichia coli by deregulating this organism's fatty acid synthase (FAS), causing the microorganism to pump out chemicals. For example, E. coli produces chemicals used to manufacture detergents and lubricants as well as methyl ketones that have promising fuel properties. Previous microbial production methods have been based on highly regulated enzymatic processes that can limit yield. Researchers developed an alternative FAS system in which enzymes from other organisms work with the native FAS in E. coli to improve the microbe's capacity for chemical production.

Although, the fatty alcohols can be generated from petroleum, plant, and animal sources, microbial synthesis of such chemicals is a more sustainable production path. Further optimization of this system could lead to strains with more efficient conversion of biomass into fuels and desired products.

As a vital element of metabolism, FAS is stringently regulated in bacteria. To bypass this regulation, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute demonstrated the recombinant expression and activity of several type 1 FAS enzymes that functioned in parallel with the native E. coli FAS. The most active heterologous FAS expressed in E. coli was Corynebacterium glutamicum FAS1A, which was leveraged to produce oleochemicals including fatty alcohols and methyl ketones. This work is believed to be the first example of in vivo function of heterologous FAS in E. coli. Using FAS1 enzymes for biofuel and bioproduct production could lead to more efficient conversion of biomass. Additionally, functional expression of these large enzyme complexes in E. coli will enable their study without the need to culture the native organisms.

Explore further: Novel technology produces gasoline by metabolically-engineered microorganism

More information: Robert W. Haushalter et al. Development of an orthogonal fatty acid biosynthesis system in E. coli for oleochemical production, Metabolic Engineering (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.ymben.2015.04.003

Related Stories

Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

October 27, 2014

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified ...

Microbes produce fuels directly from biomass

January 27, 2010

A collaboration led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Deploying the tools of synthetic ...

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.