Self-induced metabolic state switching by a tunable cell density sensor for microbial isopropanol production

Metab Eng. 2015 Jul;30:7-15. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2015.04.005. Epub 2015 Apr 20.


Chemicals production by engineered microorganisms often requires induction of target gene expression at an appropriate cell density to reduce conflict with cell growth. The lux system in Vibrio fischeri is a well-characterized model for cell density-dependent regulation of gene expression termed quorum sensing (QS). However, there are currently no reports for application of the lux system to microbial chemical production. Here, we constructed a synthetic lux system as a tunable cell density sensor-regulator using a synthetic lux promoter and a positive feedback loop in Escherichia coli. In this system, self-induction of a target gene expression is driven by QS-signal, and its threshold cell density can be changed depending on the concentration of a chemical inducer. We demonstrate auto-redirection of metabolic flux from central metabolic pathways toward a synthetic isopropanol pathway at a desired cell density resulting in a significant increase in isopropanol production.

Keywords: Metabolic engineering; Metabolic flux redirection; Quorum sensing; Synthetic genetic circuit; Synthetic metabolic pathway; lux system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Propanol / metabolism*
  • Aliivibrio fischeri / genetics
  • Aliivibrio fischeri / metabolism
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*


  • 2-Propanol