The vetiver essential oil from Chrysopogon zizanioides
contains fragrant sesquiterpenes used widely in the formulation of nearly 20% of men’s cosmetics. The growing demand and issues in the supply have raised interest in the microbial production of the sesquiterpene khusimol, the main compound of the vetiver essential oil due to its woody smell. In this study, we engineered the biosynthetic pathway for the production of (+)-zizaene, the immediate precursor of khusimol. A systematic approach of metabolic engineering in Escherichia coli
was applied to modulate the critical bottlenecks of the metabolic flux towards (+)-zizaene. Initially, production of (+)-zizaene was possible with the endogenous methylerythritol phosphate pathway and the codon-optimized zizaene synthase (ZS). Raising the precursor E,E-farnesyl diphosphate supply through the mevalonate pathway improved the (+)-zizaene titers 2.7-fold, although a limitation of the ZS supply was observed. To increase the ZS supply, distinct promoters were tested for the expression of the ZS
gene, which augmented 7.2-fold in the (+)-zizaene titers. Final metabolic enhancement for the ZS supply by using a multi-plasmid strain harboring multiple copies of the ZS
gene improved the (+)-zizaene titers 1.3-fold. The optimization of the fermentation conditions increased the (+)-zizaene titers 2.2-fold, achieving the highest (+)-zizaene titer of 25.09 mg L−1
. This study provides an alternative strategy to enhance the terpene synthase supply for the engineering of isoprenoids. Moreover, it demonstrates the development of a novel microbial platform for the sustainable production of fragrant molecules for the cosmetic industry.
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