5-25: Engineering Saccharomyces cerevisiae metabolic pathways for the production of a rare alternative biofuel, isopentenol

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Napoleon Ballroom C-D, 3rd fl (Sheraton New Orleans)
Diana Pham and David T. Stuart, Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Modern society relies heavily on chemicals and fuels derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Therefore, production of fuel substitutes from sustainable resources has gained significant interest. Bioethanol is currently the main alternative to gasoline, however the inherent properties of ethanol have limited its ability to fully replace gasoline. However, microbial production of alcohols with higher carbon chains can potentially circumvent the problems associated with ethanol. Our current project involves genetically engineering yeast to produce isopentenol, a higher chain alcohol that has a lower affinity for water and a higher energy density when compared to ethanol. These characteristics allow isopentenol to fit well with current fuel infrastructure. Additionally, isopentenol is a platform chemical used in the synthesis of a variety of flavor and aroma compounds. We are taking advantage of the endogenous yeast isoprenoid pathway, a metabolic pathway that produces essential metabolites involved in growth and development. Isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP) is an intermediate in this pathway that can be dephosphorylated to generate isopentenol. Our approach is to apply genetic engineering and synthetic biology to manipulate gene expression and protein stability to increase flux through the isoprenoid pathway and maximize IPP production and accumulation in yeast. Additionally, phosphatases will be expressed in these cells with the aim of capturing IPP and converting it to isopentenol. This project and its approach are novel and will generate powerful new “Green” technologies that can be applied to the synthesis of biofuels and biochemicals that will aid in reducing dependence upon nonrenewable resources.
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