Biological Upgrading of Pyrolysis-Derived Wastewater: Engineering Pseudomonas putida for Alkylphenol, Furfural, and Acetone Catabolism and (Methyl)muconic Acid Production

William Henson, Alex Meyers, Lahiru Jayakody, Annette DeCapite, Brenna Black, William Michener, Christopher Johnson, Gregg Beckham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus Citations


While biomass-derived carbohydrates have been predominant substrates for biological production of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials, organic waste streams are growing in prominence as potential alternative feedstocks to improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes. Catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) is a promising approach to generate biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass, but it generates a complex, carbon-rich, and toxic wastewater stream that is challenging to process catalytically but could be biologically upgraded to valuable co-products. In this work, we implemented modular, heterologous catabolic pathways in the Pseudomonas putida KT2440-derived EM42 strain along with the overexpression of native toxicity tolerance machinery to enable utilization of 89% (w/w) of carbon in CFP wastewater. The dmp monooxygenase and meta-cleavage pathway from Pseudomonas putida CF600 were constitutively expressed to enable utilization of phenol, cresols, 2- and 3-ethyl phenol, and methyl catechols, and the native chaperones clpB, groES, and groEL were overexpressed to improve toxicity tolerance to diverse aromatic substrates. Next, heterologous furfural and acetone utilization pathways were incorporated, and a native alcohol dehydrogenase was overexpressed to improve methanol utilization, generating reducing equivalents. All pathways (encoded by genes totaling ~30 kilobases of DNA) were combined into a single strain that can catabolize a mock CFP wastewater stream as a sole carbon source. Further engineering enabled conversion of all aromatic compounds in the mock wastewater stream to (methyl)muconates with a ~90% (mol/mol) yield. Biological upgrading of CFP wastewater as outlined in this work provides a roadmap for future applications in valorizing other heterogeneous waste streams.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)14-25
Number of pages12
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Metabolic Engineering Society

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-80804


  • (methyl)muconates
  • Aromatic catabolism
  • Biological funneling
  • Catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • Cresol
  • Pseudomonas putida
  • Wastewater


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