Increasing the Thermodynamic Driving Force of the Phosphofructokinase Reaction in Clostridium thermocellum

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2022 Nov 22;88(22):e0125822. doi: 10.1128/aem.01258-22. Epub 2022 Oct 26.


Glycolysis is an ancient, widespread, and highly conserved metabolic pathway that converts glucose into pyruvate. In the canonical pathway, the phosphofructokinase (PFK) reaction plays an important role in controlling flux through the pathway. Clostridium thermocellum has an atypical glycolysis and uses pyrophosphate (PPi) instead of ATP as the phosphate donor for the PFK reaction. The reduced thermodynamic driving force of the PPi-PFK reaction shifts the entire pathway closer to thermodynamic equilibrium, which has been predicted to limit product titers. Here, we replace the PPi-PFK reaction with an ATP-PFK reaction. We demonstrate that the local changes are consistent with thermodynamic predictions: the ratio of fructose 1,6-bisphosphate to fructose-6-phosphate increases, and the reverse flux through the reaction (determined by 13C labeling) decreases. The final titer and distribution of fermentation products, however, do not change, demonstrating that the thermodynamic constraints of the PPi-PFK reaction are not the sole factor limiting product titer. IMPORTANCE The ability to control the distribution of thermodynamic driving force throughout a metabolic pathway is likely to be an important tool for metabolic engineering. The phosphofructokinase reaction is a key enzyme in Embden-Mayerhof-Parnas glycolysis and therefore improving the thermodynamic driving force of this reaction in C. thermocellum is believed to enable higher product titers. Here, we demonstrate switching from pyrophosphate to ATP does in fact increases the thermodynamic driving force of the phosphofructokinase reaction in vivo. This study also identifies and overcomes a physiological hurdle toward expressing an ATP-dependent phosphofructokinase in an organism that utilizes an atypical glycolytic pathway. As such, the method described here to enable expression of ATP-dependent phosphofructokinase in an organism with an atypical glycolytic pathway will be informative toward engineering the glycolytic pathways of other industrial organism candidates with atypical glycolytic pathways.

Keywords: Clostridium; Clostridium thermocellum; advanced biofuels; metabolic engineering; metabolomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Clostridium thermocellum* / metabolism
  • Diphosphates / metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Phosphofructokinase-1 / genetics
  • Phosphofructokinase-1 / metabolism
  • Phosphofructokinases / genetics
  • Thermodynamics


  • diphosphoric acid
  • Diphosphates
  • Phosphofructokinases
  • Phosphofructokinase-1
  • Adenosine Triphosphate