Partitioning metabolism between growth and product synthesis for coordinated production of wax esters in Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1

Suvi Santala, Ville Santala, Nian Liu, Gregory Stephanopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Microbial storage compounds, such as wax esters (WE), are potential high-value lipids for the production of specialty chemicals and medicines. Their synthesis, however, is strictly regulated and competes with cell growth, which leads to trade-offs between biomass and product formation. Here, we use metabolic engineering and synergistic substrate cofeeding to partition the metabolism of Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 into two distinct modules, each dedicated to cell growth and WE biosynthesis, respectively. We first blocked the glyoxylate shunt and upregulated the WE synthesis pathway to direct the acetate substrate exclusively for WE synthesis, then we controlled the supply of gluconate so it could be used exclusively for cell growth and maintenance. We show that the two modules are functionally independent from each other, allowing efficient lipid accumulation while maintaining active cell growth. Our strategy resulted in 7.2- and 4.2-fold improvements in WE content and productivity, respectively, and the product titer was enhanced by 8.3-fold over the wild type strain. Notably, during a 24-h cultivation, a yield of 18% C-WE/C-total-substrates was achieved, being the highest reported for WE biosynthesis. This study provides a simple, yet powerful, means of controlling cellular operations and overcoming some of the fundamental challenges in microbial storage lipid production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2283-2292
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • metabolic engineering
  • microbial storage lipids
  • substrate cofeeding
  • wax ester

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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