Metabolic Engineering 73 , 38-49 ( 2022)
The one-carbon recursive ketoacid elongation pathway is responsible for making various branched-chain amino acids, aldehydes, alcohols, ketoacids, and acetate esters in living cells. Controlling selective microbial biosynthesis of these target molecules at high efficiency is challenging due to enzyme promiscuity, regulation, and metabolic burden. In this study, we present a systematic modular design approach to control proteome reallocation for selective microbial biosynthesis of branched-chain acetate esters. Through pathway modularization, we partitioned the branched-chain ester pathways into four submodules including ketoisovalerate submodule for converting pyruvate to ketoisovalerate, ketoacid elongation submodule for producing longer carbon-chain ketoacids, ketoacid decarboxylase submodule for converting ketoacids to alcohols, and alcohol acyltransferase submodule for producing branched-chain acetate esters by condensing alcohols and acetyl-CoA. By systematic manipulation of pathway gene replication and transcription, enzyme specificity of the first committed steps of these submodules, and downstream competing pathways, we demonstrated selective microbial production of isoamyl acetate over isobutyl acetate. We found that the optimized isoamyl acetate pathway globally redistributed the amino acid fractions in the proteomes and required up to 23-31% proteome reallocation at the expense of other cellular resources, such as those required to generate precursor metabolites and energy for growth and amino acid biosynthesis. From glucose fed-batch fermentation, the engineered strains produced isoamyl acetate up to a titer of 8.8 g/L (>0.25 g/L toxicity limit), a yield of 0.22 g/g (61% of maximal theoretical value), and 86% selectivity, achieving the highest titers, yields and selectivity of isoamyl acetate reported to date.