Coupling metabolic addiction with negative autoregulation to improve strain stability and pathway yield

Yongkun Lv, Yang Gu, Jingliang Xu, Jingwen Zhou, Peng Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Metabolic addiction, an organism that is metabolically addicted with a compound to maintain its growth fitness, is an underexplored area in metabolic engineering. Microbes with heavily engineered pathways or genetic circuits tend to experience metabolic burden leading to degenerated or abortive production phenotype during long-term cultivation or scale-up. A promising solution to combat metabolic instability is to tie up the end-product with an intermediary metabolite that is essential to the growth of the producing host. Here we present a simple strategy to improve both metabolic stability and pathway yield by coupling chemical addiction with negative autoregulatory genetic circuits. Naringenin and lipids compete for the same precursor malonyl-CoA with inversed pathway yield in oleaginous yeast. Negative autoregulation of the lipogenic pathways, enabled by CRISPRi and fatty acid-inducible promoters, repartitions malonyl-CoA to favor flavonoid synthesis and increased naringenin production by 74.8%. With flavonoid-sensing transcriptional activator FdeR and yeast hybrid promoters to control leucine synthesis and cell grwoth fitness, this amino acid feedforward metabolic circuit confers a flavonoid addiction phenotype that selectively enrich the naringenin-producing pupulation in the leucine auxotrophic yeast. The engineered yeast persisted 90.9% of naringenin titer up to 324 generations. Cells without flavonoid addiction regained growth fitness but lost 94.5% of the naringenin titer after cell passage beyond 300 generations. Metabolic addiction and negative autoregulation may be generalized as basic tools to eliminate metabolic heterogeneity, improve strain stability and pathway yield in long-term and large-scale bioproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell fitness
  • Metabolic addiction
  • Metabolic heterogeneity
  • Negative autoregulation
  • Strain stability
  • Synthetic biology


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