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Keywords:

  • erythromycin A;
  • E. coli;
  • heterologous biosynthesis;
  • gene expression;
  • plasmid

The production of complex compounds from technically convenient microorganisms is an emerging route to the chemical diversity found in the surrounding environment. In this study, the antibiotic compound erythromycin A is produced from Escherichia coli as an alternative to native production through the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora erythraea. By doing so, there is an opportunity to apply and refine engineering strategies for the manipulation of the erythromycin biosynthetic pathway and for the overproduction of this and other complex natural compounds. Previously, E. coli-derived production was enabled by the introduction of the entire erythromycin pathway (20 genes total) using separately selectable expression plasmids which demonstrated negative effects on final biosynthesis through metabolic burden and plasmid instability. In this study, improvements to final production were made by altering the design of the expression plasmids needed for biosynthetic pathway introduction. Specifically, the total number of genes and plasmids was pruned to reduce both metabolic burden and plasmid instability. Further, a comparison was conducted between species-specific (E. coli vs. S. coelicolor) protein chaperonins. Results indicate improvements in growth and plasmid retention metrics. The newly designed expression platform also increased erythromycin A production levels 5-fold. In conclusion, the steps outlined in this report were designed to upgrade the E. coli erythromycin A production system, led to improved final compound titers, and suggest additional forms of pathway engineering to further improve results from heterologous production attempts. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:862–869, 2013