Biochemistry, Department of



Anaerobic Production of Isoprene by Engineered Methanosarcina Species Archaea

Date of this Version



Aldridge J, Carr S, Weber KA, Buan NR. 2021. Anaerobic production of isoprene by engineered Methanosarcina species archaea. Appl Environ Microbiol 87:e02417-20. https://


Copyright © 2021 ASM

Link to PMC holding:


Isoprene is a valuable petrochemical used for a wide variety of consumer goods, such as adhesives and synthetic rubber. We were able to achieve a high yield of renewable isoprene by taking advantage of the naturally high-flux mevalonate lipid synthesis pathway in anaerobic methane-producing archaea (methanogens). Our study illustrates that by genetically manipulating Methanosarcina species methanogens, it is possible to create organisms that grow by producing the hemiterpene isoprene. Mass balance measurements show that engineered methanogens direct up to 4% of total carbon flux to isoprene, demonstrating that methanogens produce higher isoprene yields than engineered yeast, bacteria, or cyanobacteria, and from inexpensive feedstocks. Expression of isoprene synthase resulted in increased biomass and changes in gene expression that indicate that isoprene synthesis depletes membrane precursors and redirects electron flux, enabling isoprene to be a major metabolic product. Our results demonstrate that methanogens are a promising engineering chassis for renewable isoprene synthesis.

IMPORTANCE A significant barrier to implementing renewable chemical technologies is high production costs relative to those for petroleum-derived products. Existing technologies using engineered organisms have difficulty competing with petroleum-derived chemicals due to the cost of feedstocks (such as glucose), product extraction, and purification. The hemiterpene monomer isoprene is one such chemical that cannot currently be produced using cost-competitive renewable biotechnologies. To reduce the cost of renewable isoprene, we have engineered methanogens to synthesize it from inexpensive feedstocks such as methane, methanol, acetate, and carbon dioxide. The “isoprenogen” strains we developed have potential to be used for industrial production of inexpensive renewable isoprene.