Targeted Growth Medium Dropouts Promote Aromatic Compound Synthesis in Crude E. coli Cell-Free Systems
Benjamin Mohr, Richard J. Giannone, Robert L. Hettich, and Mitchel J. Doktycz
12 October 2020, ACS Synthetic Biology; https://doi.org/10.1021/acssynbio.9b00524
Progress in cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) has spurred resurgent interest in engineering complex biological metabolism outside of the cell. Unlike purified enzyme systems, crude cell-free systems can be prepared for a fraction of the cost and contain endogenous cellular pathways that can be activated for biosynthesis. Endogenous activity performs essential functions in cell-free systems including substrate biosynthesis and energy regeneration; however, use of crude cell-free systems for bioproduction has been hampered by the under-described complexity of the metabolic networks inherent to a crude lysate. Physical and chemical cultivation parameters influence the endogenous activity of the resulting lysate, but targeted efforts to engineer this activity by manipulation of these nongenetic factors has been limited. Here growth medium composition was manipulated to improve the one-pot in vitro biosynthesis of phenol from glucose via the expression of Pasteurella multocida phenol-tyrosine lyase in crude E. coli lysates. Crude cell lysate metabolic activity was focused toward the limiting precursor tyrosine by targeted growth medium dropouts guided by proteomics. The result is the activation of a 25-step enzymatic reaction cascade involving at least three endogenous E. coli metabolic pathways. Additional modification of this system, through CFPS of feedback intolerant AroG improves yield. This effort demonstrates the ability to activate a long, complex pathway in vitro and provides a framework for harnessing the metabolic potential of diverse organisms for cell-free metabolic engineering. The more than 6-fold increase in phenol yield with limited genetic manipulation demonstrates the benefits of optimizing growth medium for crude cell-free extract production and illustrates the advantages of a systems approach to cell-free metabolic engineering.