Metabolic engineering of the fungal D-galacturonate pathway for L-ascorbic acid production

Joosu Kuivanen (Corresponding Author), Peter Richard, Merja Penttilä

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Synthetic L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is widely used as a preservative and nutrient in food and pharmaceutical industries. In the current production method, D-glucose is converted to L-ascorbic acid via several biochemical and chemical steps. The main source of L-ascorbic acid in human nutrition is plants. Several alternative metabolic pathways for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis are known in plants. In one of them, D-galacturonic acid is the precursor. D-Galacturonic acid is also the main monomer in pectin, a plant cell wall polysaccharide. Pectin is abundant in biomass and is readily available from several waste streams from fruit and sugar processing industries. Results: In the present work, we engineered the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger for the conversion of D-galacturonic acid to L-ascorbic acid. In the generated pathway, the native D-galacturonate reductase activity was utilized while the gene coding for the second enzyme in the fungal D-galacturonic acid pathway, an L-galactonate consuming dehydratase, was deleted. Two heterologous genes coding for enzymes from the plant L-ascorbic acid pathway - L-galactono-1,4-lactone lactonase from Euglena gracilis (EgALase) and L-galactono-1,4-lactone dehydrogenase from Malpighia glabra (MgGALDH) - were introduced into the A. niger strain. Alternatively, an unspecific L-gulono-1,4-lactone lactonase (smp30) from the animal L-ascorbic acid pathway was introduced in the fungal strain instead of the plant L-galactono-1,4-lactone lactonase. In addition, a strain with the production pathway inducible with D-galacturonic acid was generated by using a bidirectional and D-galacturonic acid inducible promoter from the fungus. Even though, the lactonase enzyme activity was not observed in the resulting strains, they were capable of producing L-ascorbic acid from pure D-galacturonic acid or pectin-rich biomass in a consolidated bioprocess. Product titers up to 170 mg/l were achieved. Conclusions: In the current study, an L-ascorbic acid pathway using D-galacturonic acid as a precursor was introduced to a microorganism for the first time. This is also the first report on an engineered filamentous fungus for L-ascorbic acid production and a proof-of-concept of consolidated bioprocess for the production.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    Number of pages9
    JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • L-ascorbic acid
    • D-galacturonic acid
    • L-galactonic acid
    • Citrus peel
    • Aspergillus niger
    • Metabolic engineering


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