Metabolic Engineering of Escherichia Coli: Increase of NADH Availability by Overexpressing an NAD(+)-dependent Formate Dehydrogenase

Metab Eng. 2002 Jul;4(3):217-29. doi: 10.1006/mben.2002.0227.


Metabolic engineering studies have generally focused on manipulating enzyme levels through either the amplification, addition, or deletion of a particular pathway. However, with cofactor-dependent production systems, once the enzyme levels are no longer limiting, cofactor availability and the ratio of the reduced to oxidized form of the cofactor can become limiting. Under these situations, cofactor manipulation may become crucial in order to further increase system productivity. Although it is generally known that cofactors play a major role in the production of different fermentation products, their role has not been thoroughly and systematically studied. However, cofactor manipulations can potentially become a powerful tool for metabolic engineering. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) functions as a cofactor in over 300 oxidation-reduction reactions and regulates various enzymes and genetic processes. The NADH/NAD+ cofactor pair plays a major role in microbial catabolism, in which a carbon source, such as glucose, is oxidized using NAD+ producing reducing equivalents in the form of NADH. It is crucially important for continued cell growth that NADH be oxidized to NAD+ and a redox balance be achieved. Under aerobic growth, oxygen is used as the final electron acceptor. While under anaerobic growth, and in the absence of an alternate oxidizing agent, the regeneration of NAD+ is achieved through fermentation by using NADH to reduce metabolic intermediates. Therefore, an increase in the availability of NADH is expected to have an effect on the metabolic distribution. This paper investigates a genetic means of manipulating the availability of intracellular NADH in vivo by regenerating NADH through the heterologous expression of an NAD(+)-dependent formate dehydrogenase. More specifically, it explores the effect on the metabolic patterns in Escherichia coli under anaerobic and aerobic conditions of substituting the native cofactor-independent formate dehydrogenase (FDH) by and NAD(+)-dependent FDH from Candida boidinii. The over-expression of the NAD(+)-dependent FDH doubled the maximum yield of NADH from 2 to 4 mol NADH/mol glucose consumed, increased the final cell density, and provoked a significant change in the final metabolite concentration pattern both anaerobically and aerobically. Under anaerobic conditions, the production of more reduced metabolites was favored, as evidenced by a dramatic increase in the ethanol-to-acetate ratio. Even more interesting is the observation that during aerobic growth, the increased availability of NADH induced a shift to fermentation even in the presence of oxygen by stimulating pathways that are normally inactive under these conditions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis / physiology
  • Anaerobiosis / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Escherichia coli / classification
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Formate Dehydrogenases / genetics*
  • Formate Dehydrogenases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • NAD / genetics
  • NAD / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Species Specificity


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • NAD
  • Formate Dehydrogenases
  • Glucose