Engineered biosynthesis of medium-chain esters in Escherichia coli

Yi Shu Tai, Mingyong Xiong, Kechun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Medium-chain esters such as isobutyl acetate (IBAc) and isoamyl acetate (IAAc) are high-volume solvents, flavors and fragrances. In this work, we engineered synthetic metabolic pathways in Escherichia co. li for the total biosynthesis of IBAc and IAAc directly from glucose. Our pathways harnessed the power of natural amino acid biosynthesis. In particular, the native valine and leucine pathways in E. coli were utilized to supply the precursors. Then alcohol acyltransferases from various organisms were investigated on their capability to catalyze esterification reactions. It was discovered that ATF1 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae was the best enzyme for the formation of both IBAc and IAAc in E. coli. In vitro biochemical characterization of ATF1 confirmed the fermentation results and provided rational guidance for future enzyme engineering. We also performed strain improvement by removing byproduct pathways (δ. ldh, δ. poxB, δ. pta) and increased the production of both target chemicals. Then the best IBAc producing strain was used for scale-up fermentation in a 1.3-L benchtop bioreactor. 36. g/L of IBAc was produced after 72. h fermentation. This work demonstrates the feasibility of total biosynthesis of medium-chain esters as renewable chemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-28
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • E. coli
  • Ester
  • Isoamyl acetate
  • Isobutyl acetate
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Pathway manipulation
  • Renewable chemicals


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