Branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs) are important precursors for the production of advanced biofuels with improved cold-flow properties. Previous efforts in engineering type II fatty acid synthase (FAS) for BCFA production suffered from low titers and/or the co-production of a large amount of straight-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), making it nearly impossible for further conversion of BCFAs to branched biofuels. Synthesis of both SCFAs and BCFAs requires FabH, the only β-ketoacyl-(acyl-carrier-protein) synthase in Escherichia coli that catalyzes the initial condensation reaction between malonyl-ACP and a short-chain acyl-CoA. In this study, we demonstrated that replacement of the acetyl-CoA-specific E. coli FabH with a branched-chain-acyl-CoA-specific FabH directed the flux to the synthesis of BCFAs, resulting in a significant enhancement in BCFA titer compared to a strain containing both acetyl-CoA- and branched-chain-acyl-CoA-specific FabHs. We further demonstrated that the composition of BCFAs can be tuned by engineering the upstream pathway to control the supply of different branched-chain acyl-CoAs, leading to the production either even-chain-iso-, odd-chain-iso-, or odd-chain-anteiso-BCFAs separately. Overall, the top-performing strain from this study produced BCFAs at 126mg/L, comprising 52% of the total free fatty acids.
- Branched-chain fatty acids
- α-keto acids