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Efficiently Producing Fatty Acids and Biofuels from Glucose
Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production. The newly developed strain, created by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee and his team, showed the highest efficiency in producing fatty acids and biodiesels ever reported. It will be expected to serve as a new platform to sustainably produce a wide array of fatty acid-based products from glucose and other carbon substrates. Fossil fuels, which have long been energy resources for our daily lives, are now facing serious challenges: depletion of their reserves and their role in global warming. The production of sustainable bio-based renewable energy has emerged as an essential alternative and many studies to replace fossil fuels are underway. One of the representative examples is biodiesel. Currently, it is mainly being produced through the transesterification of vegetable oils or animal fats. The research team engineered oleaginous microorganisms, Rhodococcus opacus, to produce fatty acids and their derivatives that can be used as biodiesel from glucose, one of the most abundant and cheap sugars derived from non-edible biomass. Professor Lee’s team has already engineered Escherichia coli to produce short-chain hydrocarbons, which can be used as gasoline (published in Nature as the cover paper in 2013). However, the production efficiency of the short-chain hydrocarbons using E. coli (0.58 g/L) fell short of the levels required for commercialization. To overcome these issues, the team employed oil-accumulating Rhodococcus opacus as a host strain in this study. First, the team optimized the cultivation conditions of Rhodococcus opacus to maximize the accumulation of oil (triacylglycerol), which serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of fatty acids and their derivatives. Then, they systematically analyzed the metabolism of the strain and redesigned it to enable higher levels of fatty acids and two kinds of fatty acid-derived biodiesels (fatty acid ethyl esters and long-chain hydrocarbons) to be produced. They found that the resulting strains produced 50.2, 21.3, and 5.2 g/L of fatty acids, fatty acid ethyl esters, and long-chain hydrocarbons, respectively. These are all the highest concentrations ever reported by microbial fermentations. It is expected that these strains can contribute to the future industrialization of microbial-based biodiesel production. “This technology creates fatty acids and biodiesel with high efficiency by utilizing lignocellulose, one of the most abundant resources on the Earth, without depending on fossil fuels and vegetable or animal oils. This will provide new opportunities for oil and petroleum industries, which have long relied on fossil fuels, to turn to sustainable and eco-friendly biotechnologies,” said Professor Lee. This paper titled “Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels” was published in Nature Chemical Biology on June 17. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557). (Figure: Metabolic engineering for the production of free fatty acids (FFAs), fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), and long-chain hydrocarbons (LCHCs) in Rhodococcus opacus PD630. Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production.) # # # Source: Hye Mi Kim, Tong Un Chae, So Young Choi, Won Jun Kim and Sang Yup Lee. Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels. Nature Chemical Biology ( https://www.nature.com/nchembio/ ) DOI: 10.1038/s41589-019-0295-5 Profile Dr. Sang Yup Lee firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST
Engineered Microbial Production of Grape Flavoring
(Image 1: Engineered bacteria that produce grape flavoring.) Researchers report a microbial method for producing an artificial grape flavor. Methyl anthranilate (MANT) is a common grape flavoring and odorant compound currently produced through a petroleum-based process that uses large volumes of toxic acid catalysts. Professor Sang-Yup Lee’s team at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering demonstrated production of MANT, a naturally occurring compound, via engineered bacteria. The authors engineered strains of Escherichia coli and Corynebacetrium glutamicum to produce MANT through a plant-based engineered metabolic pathway. The authors tuned the bacterial metabolic pathway by optimizing the levels of AAMT1, the key enzyme in the process. To maximize production of MANT, the authors tested six strategies, including increasing the supply of a precursor compound and enhancing the availability of a co-substrate. The most productive strategy proved to be a two-phase extractive culture, in which MANT was extracted into a solvent. This strategy produced MANT on the scale of 4.47 to 5.74 grams per liter, a significant amount, considering that engineered microbes produce most natural products at a scale of milligrams or micrograms per liter. According to the authors, the results suggest that MANT and other related molecules produced through industrial processes can be produced at scale by engineered microbes in a manner that would allow them to be marketed as natural one, instead of artificial one. This study, featured at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on May 13, was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Image 2. Overview of the strategies applied for the microbial production of grape flavoring.)
Cross-Generation Collaborative Labs Open
KAIST opened two cross-generation collaborative labs last month. This novel approach will pair up senior and junior faculty members for sustaining research and academic achievements even after the senior researcher retires. This is one of the Vision 2031 innovation initiatives established to extend the spectrum of knowledge and research competitiveness. The selected labs will be funded for five years and the funding will be extended if necessary. KAIST will continue to select new labs every year. A five-member selection committee including the Nobel Laureates Professor Klaus Von Klitzing at the Max-Planck Institute for Solid State Research and Dr. Kurt Wüthrich from ETH Zürich selected the first two labs with senior-junior pairs in March. (Two renowned scholars' Cross-Generation Collaborative Labs which opened last month. Distinguished Professor Lee's lab (above) andChair Professor Sung's lab) Both labs are run by world-renowned scholars: the Systems Metabolic Engineering and Systems Healthcare Laboratory headed by Distinguished Professor Sang-Yup Lee in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Acousto-Microfluidics Research Center for Next-Generation Healthcare led by Chair Professor Hyung Jin Sung in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Distinguished Professor Lee will be teamed up with Professor Hyun Uk Kim, and their lab aims to mass produce new eco-friendly chemical materials as well as higher-value-added materials which will be used for medicine. The new platform technologies created in the lab are expected to provide information which will benefit human healthcare. Meanwhile, the Acousto-Microfluidics Research Center for Next-Generation Healthcare will team up with Professors Hyoungsoo Kim and Yeunwoo Cho under Chair Professor Sung. The lab will conduct research on controlling fluids and objects exquisitely on a micro-nano scale by using high-frequency acoustic waves. The lab plans to develop a next-generation healthcare platform for customized diagnoses as well as disease treatment. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin, who introduced this novel idea in his research innovation initiative, said that he hopes the Cross-Generation Collaborative Labs will contribute to honoring senior scholars’ research legacies and passing knowledge down to junior researchers in order to further develop their academic achievements. He said, “I sincerely hope the labs will make numerous research breakthroughs in the very near future.”
KAIST and Hanwha Chemical Agree on Research Collaboration
KAIST signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hanwha Chemical Co., Ltd., a Korean chemical and auto manufacturer, on November 2, 2015 to establish a research center on campus. The research center, which will be named “KAIST-Hanwha Chemical Future Technology Research Center,” will implement joint research projects for five years beginning from 2016 to develop innovative, green technologies that will help the Korean chemical industry boost its global competitiveness and to nurture top researchers and engineers in chemical engineering. The research center will lead the development of next-generation petrochemical materials and manufacturing technology and the establishment of pure high-refining processes which are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. KAIST and Hanwha will strive to secure new technologies that have the greatest commercialization potential in the global market. They will also establish a scholarship fund for 15 KAIST doctoral students in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Many professors from the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department including Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee, who was listed in the Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2014 by Nature Biotechnology this year, and Professor Hyunjoo Lee who received the Woman Scholar award at the 2015 World Chemistry Conference, will work at the research center. Professor Lee, the head of the research center, said, “Collaborating with Hanwha will give us a strong basis for our efforts to carry out original research and train the best researchers in the field.” Chang-Bum Kim, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hanwha Chemical, said, “We hope our collaborations with KAIST will go beyond the typical industry and university cooperation. The two organizations will indeed jointly operate the research center, and this will become a new model for industry and university cooperation. We expect that the research center will play a crucial role in the development of new products and technologies to grow the Korean chemical industry.” In the photo, President Steve Kang of KAIST (fourth from left) and CEO Chang-Bum Kim of Hanwha Chemical (fifth from left) hold the MOU together.
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