Engineering Pseudomonas putida KT2440 for efficient ethylene glycol utilization

Gregg Beckham, Mary Franden, Nicholas Cleveland, William Michener, Wing-Jin Li, Bernhard Hauer, Lars Blank, Nick Wierckx, Janosch Klebensberger, Neil Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus Citations


Ethylene glycol is used as a raw material in the production of polyethylene terephthalate, in antifreeze, as a gas hydrate inhibitor in pipelines, and for many other industrial applications. It is metabolized by aerobic microbial processes via the highly toxic intermediates glycolaldehyde and glycolate through C2 metabolic pathways. Pseudomonas putida KT2440, which has been engineered for environmental remediation applications given its high toxicity tolerance and broad substrate specificity, is not able to efficiently metabolize ethylene glycol, despite harboring putative genes for this purpose. To further expand the metabolic portfolio of P. putida, we elucidated the metabolic pathway to enable ethylene glycol via systematic overexpression of glyoxylate carboligase (gcl) in combination with other genes. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction demonstrated that all of the four genes in genomic proximity to gcl (hyi, glxR, ttuD, and pykF) are transcribed as an operon. Where the expression of only two genes (gcl and glxR) resulted in growth in ethylene glycol, improved growth and ethylene glycol utilization were observed when the entire gcl operon was expressed. Both glycolaldehyde and glyoxal inhibit growth in concentrations of ethylene glycol above 50 mM. To overcome this bottleneck, the additional overexpression of the glycolate oxidase (glcDEF) operon removes the glycolate bottleneck and minimizes the production of these toxic intermediates, permitting growth in up to 2 M (~124 g/L) and complete consumption of 0.5 M (31 g/L) ethylene glycol in shake flask experiments. In addition, the engineered strain enables conversion of ethylene glycol to medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates (mcl-PHAs). Overall, this study provides a robust P. putida KT2440 strain for ethylene glycol consumption, which will serve as a foundational strain for further biocatalyst development for applications in the remediation of waste polyester plastics and biomass-derived wastewater streams.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-71826


  • Ethylene glycol
  • Glycolaldehyde
  • Glycolate
  • Glyoxylate
  • Metabolism
  • Pseudomonas putida KT2440


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