A cell-free system for production of 2,3-butanediol is robust to growth-toxic compounds

Jennifer E. Kay, Michael C. Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The need for sustainable, low-cost production of bioenergy and commodity chemicals is increasing. Unfortunately, the engineering potential of whole-cell catalysts to address this need can be hampered by cellular toxicity. When such bottlenecks limit the commercial feasibility of whole-cell fermentation, cell-free, or in vitro, based approaches may offer an alternative. Here, we assess the impact of three classes of growth toxic compounds on crude extract-based, cell-free chemical conversions. As a model system, we test a metabolic pathway for conversion of glucose to 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO) in lysates of Escherichia coli. First, we characterized 2,3-BDO production with different classes of antibiotics and found, as expected, that the system is uninhibited by compounds that prevent cell growth by means of cell wall replication and DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Second, we considered the impact of polar solvent addition (e.g., methanol, n-butanol). We observed that volumetric productivities (g/L/h) were slowed with increasing hydrophobicity of added alcohols. Finally, we investigated the effects of using pretreated biomass hydrolysate as a feed stock, observing a 25% reduction in 2,3-BDO production as a result of coumaroyl and feruloyl amides. Overall, we find the cell-free system to be robust to working concentrations of antibiotics and other compounds that are toxic to cell growth, but do not denature or inhibit relevant enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00114
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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