Balancing the flux of a heterologous metabolic pathway by tuning the expression and properties of the pathway enzymes is difficult, but it is critical to realizing the full potential of microbial biotechnology. One prominent example is the metabolic engineering of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain harboring a heterologous xylose-utilizing pathway for cellulosic-biofuel production, which remains a challenge even after decades of research. Here, we developed a combinatorial pathway-engineering approach to rapidly create a highly efficient xylose-utilizing pathway for ethanol production by exploring various combinations of enzyme homologues with different properties. A library of more than 8,000 xylose utilization pathways was generated using DNA assembler, followed by multitiered screening, which led to the identification of a number of strain-specific combinations of the enzymes for efficient conversion of xylose to ethanol. The balancing of metabolic flux through the xylose utilization pathway was demonstrated by a complete reversal of the major product from xylitol to ethanol with a similar yield and total by-product formation as low as 0.06 g/g xylose without compromising cell growth. The results also suggested that an optimal enzyme combination depends on not only the genotype/phenotype of the host strain, but also the sugar composition of the fermentation medium. This combinatorial approach should be applicable to any heterologous pathway and will be instrumental in the optimization of industrial production of value-added products.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology