Replacement of the initial steps of ethanol metabolism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by ATP-independent acetylating acetaldehyde dehydrogenase

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In Saccharomyces cerevisiae ethanol dissimilation is initiated by its oxidation and activation to cytosolic acetyl-CoA. The associated consumption of ATP strongly limits yields of biomass and acetyl-CoA-derived products. Here, we explore the implementation of an ATP-independent pathway for acetyl-CoA synthesis from ethanol that, in theory, enables biomass yield on ethanol that is up to 40% higher. To this end, all native yeast acetaldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDs) were replaced by heterologous acetylating acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (A-ALD). Engineered Ald- strains expressing different A-ALDs did not immediately grow on ethanol, but serial transfer in ethanol-grown batch cultures yielded growth rates of up to 70% of the wild-type value. Mutations in ACS1 were identified in all independently evolved strains and deletion of ACS1 enabled slow growth of non-evolved Ald- A-ALD strains on ethanol. Acquired mutations in A-ALD genes improved affinity-Vmax/Km for acetaldehyde. One of five evolved strains showed a significant 5% increase of its biomass yield in ethanol-limited chemostat cultures. Increased production of acetaldehyde and other by-products was identified as possible cause for lower than theoretically predicted biomass yields. This study proves that the native yeast pathway for conversion of ethanol to acetyl-CoA can be replaced by an engineered pathway with the potential to improve biomass and product yields.