Thermodynamic and Kinetic Modeling Directs Pathway Optimization for Isopropanol Production in a Gas-Fermenting Bacterium

Jonathan Lo, Chao Wu, Jonathan Humphreys, Bin Yang, Zhenxiong Jiang, Xin Wang, PinChing Maness, Nicolas Tsesmetzis, Wei Xiong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rational engineering of gas-fermenting bacteria for high yields of bioproducts is vital for a sustainable bioeconomy. It will allow the microbial chassis to renewably valorize natural resources from carbon oxides, hydrogen, and/or lignocellulosic feedstocks more efficiently. To date, rational design of gas-fermenting bacteria such as changing the expression levels of individual enzymes to obtain the desired pathway flux is challenging, because pathway design must follow a verifiable metabolic blueprint indicating where interventions should be executed. Based on recent advances in constraint-based thermodynamic and kinetic models, we identify key enzymes in the gas-fermenting acetogen Clostridium ljungdahlii that correlate with the production of isopropanol. To this extent, we integrated a metabolic model in comparison with proteomics measurements and quantified the uncertainty for a variety of pathway targets needed to improve the bioproduction of isopropanol. Based on in silico thermodynamic optimization, minimal protein requirement analysis, and ensemble modeling-based robustness analysis, we identified the top two significant flux control sites, i.e., acetoacetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) transferase (AACT) and acetoacetate decarboxylase (AADC), overexpression of which could lead to increased isopropanol production. Our predictions directed iterative pathway construction, which enabled a 2.8-fold increase in isopropanol production compared to the initial version. The engineered strain was further tested under gas-fermenting mixotrophic conditions, where more than 4 g/L isopropanol was produced when CO, CO2, and fructose were provided as the substrates. In a bioreactor environment sparging with CO, CO2, and H2 only, the strain produced 2.4 g/L isopropanol. Our work highlighted that the gas-fermenting chasses can be fine-tuned for high-yield bioproduction by directed and elaborative pathway engineering.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-82557


  • Clostridium ljungdahlii
  • gas fermentation
  • isopropanol
  • metabolic robustness analysis
  • thermodynamics analysis


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