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ACS Synth Biol. 2012 Nov 16;1(11):541-54. doi: 10.1021/sb3000782. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

A synthetic biology approach to engineer a functional reversal of the β-oxidation cycle.

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  • 1Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University , 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005, USA.


While we have recently constructed a functional reversal of the β-oxidation cycle as a platform for the production of fuels and chemicals by engineering global regulators and eliminating native fermentative pathways, the system-level approach used makes it difficult to determine which of the many deregulated enzymes are responsible for product synthesis. This, in turn, limits efforts to fine-tune the synthesis of specific products and prevents the transfer of the engineered pathway to other organisms. In the work reported here, we overcome the aforementioned limitations by using a synthetic biology approach to construct and functionally characterize a reversal of the β-oxidation cycle. This was achieved through the in vitro kinetic characterization of each functional unit of the core and termination pathways, followed by their in vivo assembly and functional characterization. With this approach, the four functional units of the core pathway, thiolase, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, enoyl-CoA hydratase/3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydratase, and acyl-CoA dehydrogenase/trans-enoyl-CoA reductase, were purified and kinetically characterized in vitro. When these four functional units were assembled in vivo in combination with thioesterases as the termination pathway, the synthesis of a variety of 4-C carboxylic acids from a one-turn functional reversal of the β-oxidation cycle was realized. The individual expression and modular construction of these well-defined core components exerted the majority of control over product formation, with only highly selective termination pathways resulting in shifts in product formation. Further control over product synthesis was demonstrated by overexpressing a long-chain thiolase that enables the operation of multiple turns of the reversal of the β-oxidation cycle and hence the synthesis of longer-chain carboxylic acids. The well-defined and self-contained nature of each functional unit makes the engineered reversal of the β-oxidation cycle "chassis neutral" and hence transferrable to the host of choice for efficient fuel or chemical production.

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