Computational design and engineering of an Escherichia coli strain producing the nonstandard amino acid para-aminophenylalanine

iScience. 2022 Jun 9;25(7):104562. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104562. eCollection 2022 Jul 15.


Introducing heterologous pathways into host cells constitutes a promising strategy for synthesizing nonstandard amino acids (nsAAs) to enable the production of proteins with expanded chemistries. However, this strategy has proven challenging, as the expression of heterologous pathways can disrupt cellular homeostasis of the host cell. Here, we sought to optimize the heterologous production of the nsAA para-aminophenylalanine (pAF) in Escherichia coli. First, we incorporated a heterologous pAF biosynthesis pathway into a genome-scale model of E. coli metabolism and computationally identified metabolic interventions in the host's native metabolism to improve pAF production. Next, we explored different approaches of imposing these flux interventions experimentally and found that the upregulation of flux in the chorismate biosynthesis pathway through the elimination of feedback inhibition mechanisms could significantly raise pAF titers (∼20-fold) while maintaining a reasonable pAF production-growth rate trade-off. Overall, this study provides a promising strategy for the biosynthesis of nsAAs in engineered cells.

Keywords: Bioengineering; Bioinformatics; Metabolic engineering.