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Bacteria engineered to make gasoline

By Paul Grad |

Short-chain hydrocarbons have been produced for the first time by microbial fermentation by a research team from the Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST; Daejeon, South Korea, www.kaist.ac.kr), led by Prof Sang Yup Lee. There have been reports of the production of long-chain hydrocarbons, consisting of 13 to 17 carbon atoms, suitable for replacing diesel fuel, through metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli. However, there have been no reports on the microbial production of short-chain hydrocarbons as a possible substitute for gasoline. The team has developed strains of E. coli capable of producing short-chain hydrocarbons suitable for use as gasoline by engineering fatty acid biosynthesis and degradation pathways. The team engineered the microbes fatty acid metabolism to provide fatty acid derivatives that are shorter than normal intracellular fatty acid metabolites. The strategies used include the following: screening of enzymes associated with the production of fatty acids; engineering of enzymes and fatty acid biosynthesis pathways to concentrate carbon flux toward short-chain fatty acid production; converting short-chain fatty acids to their corresponding…
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