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Engineering a biotechnological microorganism for growth on one-carbon intermediates, produced from the abiotic activation of CO2, is a key synthetic biology step towards the valorization of this greenhouse gas to commodity chemicals. Here we redesign the central carbon metabolism of the model bacterium Escherichia coli for growth on one-carbon compounds using the reductive glycine pathway. Sequential genomic introduction of the four metabolic modules of the synthetic pathway resulted in a strain capable of growth on formate and CO2 with a doubling time of ~70 h and growth yield of ~1.5 g cell dry weight (gCDW) per mol-formate. Short-term evolution decreased doubling time to less than 8 h and improved biomass yield to 2.3 gCDW per mol-formate. Growth on methanol and CO2 was achieved by further expression of a methanol dehydrogenase. Establishing synthetic formatotrophy and methylotrophy, as demonstrated here, paves the way for sustainable bioproduction rooted in CO2 and renewable energy.


Seohyoung Kim, Steffen N Lindner, Selçuk Aslan, Oren Yishai, Sebastian Wenk, Karin Schann, Arren Bar-Even. Growth of E. coli on formate and methanol via the reductive glycine pathway. Nature chemical biology. 2020 May;16(5):538-545

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PMID: 32042198

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