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Engineered microbes convert C1 feedstocks into longer-chain chemicals

By Scott Jenkins |

Researchers at the University of South Florida (USF; Tampa, Fla.; www.usf.edu) have developed a microbial metabolic pathway that allows enzymatic conversion of one-carbon compounds into multi-carbon intermediate chemicals. The bioconversion process, which takes place in genetically engineered bacteria, could enable a host of industrially relevant processes involving the bioconversion of C1 compounds to other chemicals. These include utilizing methane that is typically flared in oil and gas operations, and converting formate from the electrochemical reduction of CO2 into ethylene glycol. Using metabolic engineering techniques, the USF researchers were able to insert genes for a prokaryote analog of the human enzyme 2-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A lyase (HACL) into Escherichia coli bacteria and engineered a variant that improves activity. Normally, HACL enzymes break down long-chain fatty acids into smaller molecules, but the USF team was able to engineer the system so that the enzyme worked on the reverse reaction, with microbes consuming C1 compounds and forming new carbon-carbon bonds to build multi-carbon molecules. To demonstrate the metabolic pathway, the USF team reported engineered microbes capable of converting formaldehyde into…
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