Depleting oil reserves and growing environmental concerns have necessitated the development of sustainable processes to fuels and chemicals. Here we have developed a general metabolic platform in E. coli to biosynthesize carboxylic acids. By engineering selectivity of 2-ketoacid decarboxylases and screening for promiscuous aldehyde dehydrogenases, synthetic pathways were constructed to produce both C5 and C6 acids. In particular, the production of isovaleric acid reached 32 g/L (0.22 g/g glucose yield), which is 58% of the theoretical yield. Furthermore, we have developed solid base catalysts to efficiently ketonize the bio-derived carboxylic acids such as isovaleric acid and isocaproic acid into high volume industrial ketones: methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK, yield 84%), diisobutyl ketone (DIBK, yield 66%) and methyl isoamyl ketone (MIAK, yield 81%). This hybrid "Bio-Catalytic conversion" approach provides a general strategy to manufacture aliphatic ketones, and represents an alternate route to expanding the repertoire of renewable chemicals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by start-up funds from the University of Minnesota, and the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB215306).