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Metab Eng. 2008 Nov;10(6):340-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2008.08.005. Epub 2008 Sep 9.

Engineering Escherichia coli for the efficient conversion of glycerol to ethanol and co-products.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA.


Given its availability, low prices, and high degree of reduction, glycerol has become an ideal feedstock for producing reduced compounds via anaerobic fermentation. We recently identified environmental conditions enabling the fermentative metabolism of glycerol in E. coli, along with the pathways and mechanisms mediating this metabolic process. In this work, we used the knowledge base created in previous studies to engineer E. coli for the efficient conversion of crude glycerol to ethanol. Our strategy capitalized on the high degree of reduction of carbon in glycerol, thus enabling the production of not only ethanol but also co-products hydrogen and formate. Two strains were created for the co-production of ethanol-hydrogen and ethanol-formate: SY03 and SY04, respectively. High ethanol yields were achieved in both strains by minimizing the synthesis of by-products succinate and acetate through mutations that inactivated fumarate reductase (DeltafrdA) and phosphate acetyltransferase (Deltapta), respectively. Strain SY04, which produced ethanol-formate, also contained a mutation that inactivated formate-hydrogen lyase (DeltafdhF), thus preventing the conversion of formate to CO(2) and H(2). High rates of glycerol utilization and product synthesis were achieved by simultaneous overexpression of glycerol dehydrogenase (gldA) and dihydroxyacetone kinase (dhaKLM), which are the enzymes responsible for the conversion of glycerol to glycolytic intermediate dihydroxyacetone phosphate. The resulting strains, SY03 (pZSKLMgldA) and SY04 (pZSKLMgldA), produced ethanol-hydrogen and ethanol-formate from unrefined glycerol at yields exceeding 95% of the theoretical maximum and specific rates in the order of 15-30 mmol/gcell/h. These yields and productivities are superior to those reported for the conversion of glycerol to ethanol-H(2) or ethanol-formate by other organisms and equivalent to those achieved in the production of ethanol from sugars using E. coli.

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