Control of D-lactic acid content in P(LA-3HB) copolymer in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a synthetic gene expression system

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The fully biobased polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymers provide interesting alternatives for petrochemical derived plastic materials. The mechanical properties of some PHAs, including the common poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB), are limited, but tunable by addition of other monomers into the polymer chain. In this study we present a precise synthetic biology method to adjust lactate monomer fraction of a polymer by controlling the monomer formation in vivo at gene expression level, independent of cultivation conditions. We used the modified doxycycline-based Tet-On approach to adjust the expression of the stereospecific D-lactate dehydrogenase gene (ldhA) from Leuconostoc mesenteroides to control D-lactic acid formation in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The synthetic Tet-On transcription factor with a VP16 activation domain was continuously expressed and its binding to a synthetic promoter with eight transcription factor specific binding sites upstream of the ldhA gene was controlled with the doxycycline concentration in the media. The increase in doxycycline concentration correlated positively with ldhA expression, D-lactic acid production, poly(D-lactic acid) (PDLA) accumulation in vivo, and D-lactic acid content in the poly(D-lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) P(LA-3HB) copolymer. We demonstrated that the D-lactic acid content of the P(LA-3HB) copolymer can be adjusted linearly from 6 mol% to 93 mol% in vivo in S. cerevisiae. These results highlight the power of controlling gene expression and monomer formation in the tuning of the polymer composition. In addition, we obtained 5.6% PDLA and 19% P(LA-3HB) of the cell dry weight (CDW), which are over two- and five-fold higher accumulation levels, respectively, than reported in the previous studies with yeast. We also compared two engineered PHA synthases and discovered that in S. cerevisiae the PHA synthase PhaC1437Ps6-19 produced P(LA-3HB) copolymers with lower D-lactic acid content, but with higher molecular weight, in comparison to the PHA synthase PhaC1Pre.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00199
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Copolymer
  • Doxycycline
  • Gene expression
  • PHA
  • Tet-on
  • Yeast


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