Nature Communications 13(1) , 3058 ( 2022)
Carbon-negative synthesis of biochemical products has the potential to mitigate global CO2 emissions. An attractive route to do this is the reverse β-oxidation (r-BOX) pathway coupled to the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Here, we optimize and implement r-BOX for the synthesis of C4-C6 acids and alcohols. With a high-throughput in vitro prototyping workflow, we screen 762 unique pathway combinations using cell-free extracts tailored for r-BOX to identify enzyme sets for enhanced product selectivity. Implementation of these pathways into Escherichia coli generates designer strains for the selective production of butanoic acid (4.9 ± 0.1 gL−1), as well as hexanoic acid (3.06 ± 0.03 gL−1) and 1-hexanol (1.0 ± 0.1 gL−1) at the best performance reported to date in this bacterium. We also generate Clostridium autoethanogenum strains able to produce 1-hexanol from syngas, achieving a titer of 0.26 gL−1 in a 1.5 L continuous fermentation. Our strategy enables optimization of r-BOX derived products for biomanufacturing and industrial biotechnology.