Levoglucosan is a major product of biomass pyrolysis. While this pyrolyzed biomass, also known as bio-oil, contains sugars that are an attractive fermentation substrate, commonly-used biocatalysts, such as Escherichia coli, lack the ability to metabolize this anhydrosugar. It has previously been shown that recombinant expression of the levoglucosan kinase enzyme enables use of levoglucosan as carbon and energy source. Here, ethanologenic E. coli KO11 was engineered for levoglucosan utilization by recombinant expression of levoglucosan kinase from Lipomyces starkeyi. Our engineering strategy uses a codon-optimized gene that has been chromosomally integrated within the pyruvate to ethanol (PET) operon and does not require additional antibiotics or inducers. Not only does this engineered strain use levoglucosan as sole carbon source, but it also ferments levoglucosan to ethanol. This work demonstrates that existing biocatalysts can be easily modified for levoglucosan utilization.
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