Department of Chemistry


Date of this Version



Cao et al. BMC Biotechnology (2016) 16:26 DOI 10.1186/s12896-016-0257-x


© 2016 Cao et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Background: Hydroxy fatty acids (HFAs) are valuable chemicals for a broad variety of applications. However, commercial production of HFAs has not been established so far due to the lack of low cost routes for their synthesis. Although the microbial transformation pathway of HFAs was extensively studied decades ago, these attempts mainly focused on converting fatty acids or vegetable oils to their hydroxyl counterparts. The use of a wider range of feedstocks to produce HFAs would reduce the dependence on oil crops and be expected to cut down the manufacturing cost.

Results: In this study, the industrially important microorganism Escherichia coli was engineered to produce HFAs directly from glucose. Through the coexpression of the acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase) and the leadless acyl-CoA thioesterase (‘TesA), and knockout of the endogenous acyl-CoA synthetase (FadD), an engineered E. coli strain was constructed to efficiently synthesize free fatty acids (FFAs). Under shake-flask conditions, 244.8 mg/L of FFAs were obtained by a 12 h induced culture. Then the fatty acid hydroxylase (CYP102A1) from Bacillus megaterium was introduced into this strain and high-level production of HFAs was achieved. The finally engineered strain BL21ΔfadD/ pE-A1’tesA&pA-acc accumulated up to 58.7 mg/L of HFAs in the culture broth. About 24 % of the FFAs generated by the thioesterase were converted to HFAs. Fatty acid composition analysis showed that the HFAs mainly consisted of 9-hydroxydecanoic acid (9-OH-C10), 11-hydroxydodecanoic acid (11-OH-C12), 10-hydroxyhexadecanoic acid (10-OHC16) and 12-hydroxyoctadecanoic acid (12-OH-C18). Fed-batch fermentation of this strain further increased the final titer of HFAs to 548 mg/L.

Conclusions: A robust HFA-producing strain was successfully constructed using glucose as the feedstock, which demonstrated a novel strategy for bioproduction of HFAs. The results of this work suggest that metabolically engineered E. coli has the potential to be a microbial cell factory for large-scale production of HFAs.