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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Jul;76(13):4327-36. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00664-10. Epub 2010 May 14.

Escherichia coli strains engineered for homofermentative production of D-lactic acid from glycerol.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University, 6100 Main St., MS-362, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


Given its availability and low price, glycerol has become an ideal feedstock for the production of fuels and chemicals. We recently reported the pathways mediating the metabolism of glycerol in Escherichia coli under anaerobic and microaerobic conditions. In this work, we engineer E. coli for the efficient conversion of glycerol to d-lactic acid (d-lactate), a negligible product of glycerol metabolism in wild-type strains. A homofermentative route for d-lactate production was engineered by overexpressing pathways involved in the conversion of glycerol to this product and blocking those leading to the synthesis of competing by-products. The former included the overexpression of the enzymes involved in the conversion of glycerol to glycolytic intermediates (GlpK-GlpD and GldA-DHAK pathways) and the synthesis of d-lactate from pyruvate (d-lactate dehydrogenase). On the other hand, the synthesis of succinate, acetate, and ethanol was minimized through two strategies: (i) inactivation of pyruvate-formate lyase (DeltapflB) and fumarate reductase (DeltafrdA) (strain LA01) and (ii) inactivation of fumarate reductase (DeltafrdA), phosphate acetyltransferase (Deltapta), and alcohol/acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (DeltaadhE) (strain LA02). A mutation that blocked the aerobic d-lactate dehydrogenase (Deltadld) also was introduced in both LA01 and LA02 to prevent the utilization of d-lactate. The most efficient strain (LA02Deltadld, with GlpK-GlpD overexpressed) produced 32 g/liter of d-lactate from 40 g/liter of glycerol at a yield of 85% of the theoretical maximum and with a chiral purity higher than 99.9%. This strain exhibited maximum volumetric and specific productivities for d-lactate production of 1.5 g/liter/h and 1.25 g/g cell mass/h, respectively. The engineered homolactic route generates 1 to 2 mol of ATP per mol of d-lactate and is redox balanced, thus representing a viable metabolic pathway.

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