Efficient odd straight medium chain free fatty acid production by metabolically engineered Escherichia coli



Free fatty acids (FFAs) can be used as precursors for the production of biofuels or chemicals. Different composition of FFAs will be useful for further modification of the biofuel/biochemical quality. Microbial biosynthesis of even chain FFAs can be achieved by introducing an acyl-acyl carrier protein thioesterase gene into E. coli. In this study, odd straight medium chain FFAs production was investigated by using metabolic engineered E. coli carrying acyl-ACP thioesterase (TE, Ricinus communis), propionyl-CoA synthase (Salmonella enterica), and β-ketoacyl-acyl carrier protein synthase III (four different sources) with supplement of extracellular propionate. By using these metabolically engineered E. coli, significant quantity of C13 and C15 odd straight-chain FFAs could be produced from glucose and propionate. The highest concentration of total odd straight chain FFAs attained was 1205 mg/L by the strain HWK201 (pXZ18, pBHE2), and 85% of the odd straight chain FFAs was C15. However, the highest percentage of odd straight chain FFAs was achieved by the strain HWK201 (pXZ18, pBHE3) of 83.2% at 48 h. This strategy was also applied successfully in strains carrying different TE, such as the medium length acyl-ACP thioesterase gene from Umbellularia californica. C11 and C13 became the major odd straight-chain FFAs. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 2209–2219. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.