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Renewable production of high density jet fuel precursor sesquiterpenes from Escherichia coli



Aviation fuels are an important target of biofuels research due to their high market demand and competitive price. Isoprenoids have been demonstrated as good feedstocks for advanced renewable jet fuels with high energy density, high heat of combustion, and excellent cold-weather performance. In particular, sesquiterpene compounds (C15), such as farnesene and bisabolene, have been identified as promising jet fuel candidates.


In this study, we explored three sesquiterpenes-epi-isozizaene, pentalenene and α-isocomene-as novel jet fuel precursors. We performed a computational analysis to calculate the energy of combustion of these sesquiterpenes and found that their specific energies are comparable to commercial jet fuel A-1. Through heterologous MVA pathway expression and promoter engineering, we produced 727.9 mg/L epi-isozizaene, 780.3 mg/L pentalenene and 77.5 mg/L α-isocomene in Escherichia coli and 344 mg/L pentalenene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We also introduced a dynamic autoinduction system using previously identified FPP-responsive promoters for inducer-free production and managed to achieve comparable amounts of each compound.


We produced tricyclic sesquiterpenes epi-isozizaene, pentalenene and α-isocomene, promising jet fuel feedstocks at high production titers, providing novel, sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuels.

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