Engineering of Escherichia coli for Krebs cycle-dependent production of malic acid

Debora Trichez, Clément Auriol, Audrey Baylac, Romain Irague, Clémentine Dressaire, Marc Carnicer-Heras, Stéphanie Heux, Jean Marie François, Thomas Walther

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Malate is a C4-dicarboxylic acid widely used as an acidulant in the food and beverage industry. Rational engineering has been performed in the past for the development of microbial strains capable of efficient production of this metabolite. However, as malate can be a precursor for specialty chemicals, such as 2,4-dihydroxybutyric acid, that require additional cofactors NADP(H) and ATP, we set out to reengineer Escherichia coli for Krebs cycle-dependent production of malic acid that can satisfy these requirements. Results: We found that significant malate production required at least simultaneous deletion of all malic enzymes and dehydrogenases, and concomitant expression of a malate-insensitive PEP carboxylase. Metabolic flux analysis using 13C-labeled glucose indicated that malate-producing strains had a very high flux over the glyoxylate shunt with almost no flux passing through the isocitrate dehydrogenase reaction. The highest malate yield of 0.82 mol/mol was obtained with E. coli Δmdh Δmqo ΔmaeAB ΔiclR ΔarcA which expressed malate-insensitive PEP carboxylase PpcK620S and NADH-insensitive citrate synthase GltAR164L. We also showed that inactivation of the dicarboxylic acid transporter DcuA strongly reduced malate production arguing for a pivotal role of this permease in malate export. Conclusions: Since more NAD(P)H and ATP cofactors are generated in the Krebs cycle-dependent malate production when compared to pathways which depend on the function of anaplerotic PEP carboxylase or PEP carboxykinase enzymes, the engineered strain developed in this study can serve as a platform to increase biosynthesis of malate-derived metabolites such as 2,4-dihydroxybutyric acid.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Escherichia coli
  • Flux analysis
  • Malic acid
  • Metabolic engineering


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