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Metab Eng. 2008 Nov;10(6):321-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2008.07.005. Epub 2008 Aug 3.

Metabolic engineering of the non-sporulating, non-solventogenic Clostridium acetobutylicum strain M5 to produce butanol without acetone demonstrate the robustness of the acid-formation pathways and the importance of the electron balance.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.


The primary alcohol/aldehyde dehydrogenase (coded by the aad gene) is responsible for butanol formation in Clostridium acetobutylicum. We complemented the non-sporulating, non-solvent-producing C. acetobutylicum M5 strain (which has lost the pSOL1 megaplasmid containing aad and the acetone-formation genes) with aad expressed from the phosphotransbutyrylase promoter and restored butanol production to wild type levels. Because no acetone was produced, no acids (acetate or butyrate) were re-assimilated leading to high butyrate but especially acetate levels. To counter acetate production, we examined thiolase overexpression in order reduce the acetyl-CoA pool and enhance the butyryl-CoA pool. We combined thiolase overexpression with aad overexpression aiming to also enhance butanol formation. While limiting the formation of acetate and ethanol, the butanol titers were not improved. We also generated acetate kinase (AK) and butyrate kinase (BK) knockout (KO) mutants of M5 using a modified protocol to increase the antibiotic-resistance gene expression. These strains exhibited greater than 60% reduction in acetate or butyrate formation, respectively. We complemented the AKKO M5 strain with aad overexpression, but could not successfully transform the BKKO M5 strain. The AKKO M5 strain overexpressing aad produced less acetate, but also less butanol compared to the M5 aad overexpression strain. These data suggest that loss of the pSOL1 megaplasmid renders cells resistant to changes in the two acid-formation pathways, and especially so for butyrate formation. We argue that the difficulty in generating high butanol producers without acetone and acid production is hindered by the inability to control the electron flow, which appears to be affected by unknown pSOL1 genes.

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