Glycolic acid production in the engineered yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Kluyveromyces lactis

Outi M. Koivistoinen, Joosu Kuivanen, Dorothee Barth, Heidi Turkia, Juha Pekka Pitkänen, Merja Penttilä, Peter Richard

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    112 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Glycolic acid is a C2 hydroxy acid that is a widely used chemical compound. It can be polymerised to produce biodegradable polymers with excellent gas barrier properties. Currently, glycolic acid is produced in a chemical process using fossil resources and toxic chemicals. Biotechnological production of glycolic acid using renewable resources is a desirable alternative.Results: The yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Kluyveromyces lactis are suitable organisms for glycolic acid production since they are acid tolerant and can grow in the presence of up to 50 g l-1 glycolic acid. We engineered S. cerevisiae and K. lactis for glycolic acid production using the reactions of the glyoxylate cycle to produce glyoxylic acid and then reducing it to glycolic acid. The expression of a high affinity glyoxylate reductase alone already led to glycolic acid production. The production was further improved by deleting genes encoding malate synthase and the cytosolic form of isocitrate dehydrogenase. The engineered S. cerevisiae strain produced up to about 1 g l-1 of glycolic acid in a medium containing d-xylose and ethanol. Similar modifications in K. lactis resulted in a much higher glycolic acid titer. In a bioreactor cultivation with d-xylose and ethanol up to 15 g l-1 of glycolic acid was obtained.Conclusions: This is the first demonstration of engineering yeast to produce glycolic acid. Prior to this work glycolic acid production through the glyoxylate cycle has only been reported in bacteria. The benefit of a yeast host is the possibility for glycolic acid production also at low pH, which was demonstrated in flask cultivations. Production of glycolic acid was first shown in S. cerevisiae. To test whether a Crabtree negative yeast would be better suited for glycolic acid production we engineered K. lactis in the same way and demonstrated it to be a better host for glycolic acid production.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number82
    JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Glycolic acid
    • Glyoxylate cycle
    • Glyoxylate reductase
    • Glyoxylic acid
    • Kluyveromyces lactis
    • Metabolic engineering
    • Saccharomyces cerevisiae


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