Engineering acetyl-CoA metabolic shortcut for eco-friendly production of polyketides triacetic acid lactone in Yarrowia lipolytica

Huan Liu, Monireh Marsafari, Fang Wang, Li Deng, Peng Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Acetyl-CoA is the central metabolic node connecting glycolysis, Krebs cycle and fatty acids synthase. Plant-derived polyketides, are assembled from acetyl-CoA and malonyl-CoA, represent a large family of biological compounds with diversified bioactivity. Harnessing microbial bioconversion is considered as a feasible approach to large-scale production of polyketides from renewable feedstocks. Most of the current polyketide production platform relied on the lengthy glycolytic steps to provide acetyl-CoA, which inherently suffers from complex regulation with metabolically-costly cofactor/ATP requirements. Using the simplest polyketide triacetic acid lactone (TAL) as a testbed molecule, we demonstrate that acetate uptake pathway in oleaginous yeast (Yarrowia lipolytica) could function as an acetyl-CoA shortcut to achieve metabolic optimality in producing polyketides. We identified the metabolic bottlenecks to rewire acetate utilization for efficient TAL production in Y. lipolytica, including generation of the driving force for acetyl-CoA, malonyl-CoA and NADPH. The engineered strain, with the overexpression of endogenous acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC1), malic enzyme (MAE1) and a bacteria-derived cytosolic pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), affords robust TAL production with titer up to 4.76 g/L from industrial glacier acetic acid in shake flasks, representing 8.5-times improvement over the parental strain. The acetate-to-TAL conversion ratio (0.149 g/g) reaches 31.9% of the theoretical maximum yield. The carbon flux through this acetyl-CoA metabolic shortcut exceeds the carbon flux afforded by the native glycolytic pathways. Potentially, acetic acid could be manufactured in large-quantity at low-cost from Syngas fermentation or heterogenous catalysis (methanol carbonylation). This alternative carbon sources present a metabolic advantage over glucose to unleash intrinsic pathway limitations and achieve high carbon conversion efficiency and cost-efficiency. This work also highlights that low-cost acetic acid could be sustainably upgraded to high-value polyketides by oleaginous yeast species in an eco-friendly and cost-efficient manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetic acid
  • Cytosolic acetyl-CoA
  • Metabolic shortcut
  • Orthogonal pyruvate dehydrogenase complex
  • Triacetic acid lactone (TAL)
  • Yarrowia lipolytica


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