Published on Fri Aug 06 2021

Expression of soluble methane monooxygenase in Escherichia coli enables methane conversion

Bennett, R. K., Dzvova, N., Dillon, M., Jones, S., Hestmark, K., Zhu, B., Helman, N., Greenfield, D., Clarke, E., Papoutsakis, E. T.

Natural gas and biogas provide an opportunity to harness methane as an industrial feedstock. Bioconversion is a promising alternative to chemical catalysis. This work provides the first reported demonstration of methane bioconversion to liquid chemicals in a synthetic methanotroph.

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Abstract

Natural gas and biogas provide an opportunity to harness methane as an industrial feedstock. Bioconversion is a promising alternative to chemical catalysis, which requires extreme operating conditions and exhibits poor specificities. Though methanotrophs natively utilize methane, efforts have been focused on engineering platform organisms like Escherichia coli for synthetic methanotrophy. Here, a synthetic E. coli methanotroph was developed by engineering functional expression of the Methylococcus capsulatus soluble methane monooxygenase in vivo via expression of its cognate GroESL chaperone. Additional overexpression of E. coli GroESL further improved activity. Incorporation of an acetone formation pathway then enabled the conversion of methane to acetone in vivo, as validated via 13C tracing. This work provides the first reported demonstration of methane bioconversion to liquid chemicals in a synthetic methanotroph.