Metabolic engineering is an extremely useful tool enabling the biosynthetic production of commodity chemicals (typically derived from petroleum) from renewable resources. In this work, a pathway for the biosynthesis of styrene (a plastics monomer) has been engineered in Escherichia coli from glucose by utilizing the pathway for the naturally occurring amino acid phenylalanine, the precursor to styrene. Styrene production was accomplished using an E. coli phenylalanine overproducer, E. coli NST74, and over-expression of PAL2 from Arabidopsis thaliana and FDC1 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The styrene pathway was then extended by just one enzyme to either (S)-styrene oxide (StyAB from Pseudomonas putida S12) or (R)-1,2-phenylethanediol (NahAaAbAcAd from Pseudomonas sp. NCIB 9816-4) which are both used in pharmaceutical production. Overall, these pathways suffered from limitations due to product toxicity as well as limited precursor availability. In an effort to overcome the toxicity threshold, the styrene pathway was transferred to a yeast host with a higher toxicity limit. First, Saccharomyces cerevisiae BY4741 was engineered to overproduce phenylalanine. Next, PAL2 (the only enzyme needed to complete the styrene pathway) was then expressed in the BY4741 phenylalanine overproducer. Further strain improvements included the deletion of the phenylpyruvate decarboxylase (ARO10) and expression of a feedback-resistant choristmate mutase (ARO4K229L). These works have successfully demonstrated the possibility of utilizing microorganisms as cellular factories for the production styrene, (S)-styrene oxide, and (R)-1,2-phenylethanediol.
- Metabolic engineering for the biosynthesis of styrene and its derivatives
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by Rebekah McKenna