Layered dynamic regulation for improving metabolic pathway productivity in Escherichia coli
Microbial production of value-added chemicals from biomass is a sustainable alternative to chemical synthesis. To improve product titer, yield, and selectivity, the pathways engineered into microbes must be optimized. One strategy for optimization is dynamic pathway regulation, which modulates expression of pathway-relevant enzymes over the course of fermentation. Metabolic engineers have used dynamic regulation to redirect endogenous flux toward product formation, balance the production and consumption rates of key intermediates, and suppress production of toxic intermediates until later in the fermentation. Most cases, however, have utilized a single strategy for dynamically regulating pathway fluxes. Here we layer two orthogonal, autonomous, and tunable dynamic regulation strategies to independently modulate expression of two different enzymes to improve production of D-glucaric acid from a heterologous pathway. The first strategy uses a previously described pathway-independent quorum sensing system to dynamically knock down glycolytic flux and redirect carbon into production of glucaric acid, thereby switching cells from “growth” to “production” mode. The second strategy, developed in this work, uses a biosensor for myo-inositol (MI), an intermediate in the glucaric acid production pathway, to induce expression of a downstream enzyme upon sufficient buildup of MI. The latter, pathway-dependent strategy leads to a 2.5-fold increase in titer when used in isolation and a fourfold increase when added to a strain employing the former, pathway-independent regulatory system. The dual-regulation strain produces nearly 2 g/L glucaric acid, representing the highest glucaric acid titer reported to date in Escherichia coli K-12 strains.