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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Production of muconic acid in plants


Muconic acid (MA) is a dicarboxylic acid used for the production of industrially relevant chemicals such as adipic acid, terephthalic acid, and caprolactam. Because the synthesis of these polymer precursors generates toxic intermediates by utilizing petroleum-derived chemicals and corrosive catalysts, the development of alternative strategies for the bio-based production of MA has garnered significant interest. Plants produce organic carbon skeletons by harvesting carbon dioxide and energy from the sun, and therefore represent advantageous hosts for engineered metabolic pathways towards the manufacturing of chemicals. In this work, we engineered Arabidopsis to demonstrate that plants can serve as green factories for the bio-manufacturing of MA. In particular, dual expression of plastid-targeted bacterial salicylate hydroxylase (NahG) and catechol 1,2-dioxygenase (CatA) resulted in the conversion of the endogenous salicylic acid (SA) pool into MA via catechol. Sequential increase of SA derived from the shikimate pathway was achieved by expressing plastid-targeted versions of bacterial salicylate synthase (Irp9) and feedback-resistant 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate synthase (AroG). Introducing this SA over-producing strategy into engineered plants that co-express NahG and CatA resulted in a 50-fold increase in MA titers. Considering that MA was easily recovered from senesced plant biomass after harvest, we envision the phytoproduction of MA as a beneficial option to add value to bioenergy crops.

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