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Summary

Pseudomonas putida KT2440 has evolved a tightly regulated system for metabolizing glycerol implying a prolonged growth lag-phase. We have learnt that this fact can be avoided by the addition of small amounts of some growth precursors. The addition of 1 mM octanoic acid as co-feeder completely eliminated the lag-phase, resulting in an improvement, in terms of invested time, of both growth and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) accumulation. To investigate this phenomenon, we have followed co-metabolic approaches combined with mutations of the specific and global regulatory networks that connect glycerol catabolism and PHA synthesis. By using mutant strains in metabolic genes from the PHA and tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycles, we have demonstrated that the co-feeding effect is independent of PHA accumulation, but driven on active glyoxylate shunt and Entner–Doudoroff (ED) routes. These findings suggested that the effect of octanoate on glycerol metabolism could rely, either on a global activation of the cell energy state, or on the generation of specific metabolites or cofactors needed for the activation of glycerol metabolism. Our results addressed GlpR as the key factor controlling the efficient utilization of glycerol as growth precursor in P. putida KT2440. Accordingly, a glpR knockout mutant of P. putida KT2440 showed an elimination of the lag-phase when cultured on glycerol in the absence of co-feeder. Besides, the production of PHA in this strain was increased near twofold, resulting in a higher final yield in terms of PHA accumulation. The repressor activity of the GlpR protein over the glp genes in the absence of glycerol was finally demonstrated by qRT-PCR. This work contributed to unravel the physiological causes of the long lag-phase produced by glycerol in the model strain P. putida KT2440 that hinders its use as carbon source in biotechnological applications for generating valuable products.