Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Microbial Cell Factories and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research

Optimization of fatty alcohol biosynthesis pathway for selectively enhanced production of C12/14 and C16/18 fatty alcohols in engineered Escherichia coli

Yan-Ning Zheng12, Ling-Ling Li13, Qiang Liu13, Jian-Ming Yang12, Xiang-Wei Wang12, Wei Liu1, Xin Xu1, Hui Liu1, Guang Zhao1* and Mo Xian1*

Author Affiliations

1 Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.189 Songling Road, Laoshan District, Qingdao, 266101, China

2 Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China

3 College of Food Science, Sichuan Agricultural University, Yaan, 625014, China

For all author emails, please log on.

Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:65  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-65

Published: 20 May 2012

Abstract

Background

With the increasing stress from oil price and environmental pollution, aroused attention has been paid to the microbial production of chemicals from renewable sources. The C12/14 and C16/18 alcohols are important feedstocks for the production of surfactants and detergents, which are widely used in the most respected consumer detergents, cleaning products and personal care products worldwide. Though bioproduction of fatty alcohols has been carried out in engineered E. coli, several key problems have not been solved in earlier studies, such as the quite low production of C16/18 alcohol, the lack of optimization of the fatty alcohol biosynthesis pathway, and the uncharacterized performance of the engineered strains in scaled-up system.

Results

We improved the fatty alcohol production by systematically optimizing the fatty alcohol biosynthesis pathway, mainly targeting three key steps from fatty acyl-acyl carrier proteins (ACPs) to fatty alcohols, which are sequentially catalyzed by thioesterase, acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) synthase and fatty acyl-CoA reductase. By coexpression of thioesterase gene BTE, acyl-CoA synthase gene fadD and fatty acyl-CoA reductase gene acr1, 210.1 mg/L C12/14 alcohol was obtained. A further optimization of expression level of BTE, fadD and acr1 increased the C12/14 alcohol production to 449.2 mg/L, accounting for 75.0% of the total fatty alcohol production (598.6 mg/L). In addition, by coexpression of thioesterase gene ‘tesA, acyl-CoA synthase gene fadD and fatty acyl-CoA reductase gene FAR, 101.5 mg/L C16/18 alcohol was obtained, with C16/18 alcohol accounting for 89.2% of the total fatty alcohol production.

Conclusions

To our knowledge, this is the first report on selective production of C12/14 and C16/18 alcohols by microbial fermentation. This work achieved high-specificity production of both C12/14 and C16/18 alcohols. The encouraging 598.6 mg/L of fatty alcohols represents the highest titer reported so far. In addition, the 101.5 mg/L 89.2% C16/18 alcohol suggests an important breakthrough in C16/18 alcohol production. A more detailed optimization of the expression level of fatty alcohol biosynthesis pathway may contribute to a further improvement of fatty alcohol production.

Keywords:
Fatty alcohol; Escherichia coli; Pathway optimization; Selective production; Fermentation