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Highly Multiplexed CRISPRi Repression of Respiratory Functions Enhances Mitochondrial Localized Ethyl Acetate Biosynthesis in Kluyveromyces marxianus

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journal contribution
posted on 24.10.2018, 00:00 by Ann-Kathrin Löbs, Cory Schwartz, Sarah Thorwall, Ian Wheeldon
The emergence of CRISPR-Cas9 for targeted genome editing and regulation has enabled the manipulation of desired traits and enhanced strain development of nonmodel microorganisms. The natural capacity of the yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus to produce volatile esters at high rate and at elevated temperatures make it a potentially valuable production platform for industrial biotechnology. Here, we identify the native localization of ethyl acetate biosynthesis in K. marxianus and use this information to develop a multiplexed CRISPRi system for redirecting carbon flux along central metabolic pathways, increasing ethyl acetate productivity. First, we identified the primary pathways of precursor and acetate ester biosynthesis. A genetic knockout screen revealed that the alcohol acetyltransferase Eat1 is the critical enzyme for ethyl, isoamyl, and phenylethyl acetate production. Truncation studies revealed that high ester biosynthesis is contingent on Eat1 mitochondrial localization. As ethyl acetate is formed from the condensation of ethanol and acetyl-CoA, we modulated expression of the TCA cycle and electron transport chain genes using a highly multiplexed CRISPRi approach. The simultaneous knockdown of ACO2b, SDH2, RIP1, and MSS51 resulted in a 3.8-fold increase in ethyl acetate productivity over the already high natural capacity. This work demonstrates that multiplexed CRISPRi regulation of central carbon flux, supported by a fundamental understanding of pathway biochemistry, is a potent strategy for metabolic engineering in nonconventional microorganisms.