Aromatic compounds such as l -phenylalanine, 2-phenylethanol and trans-cinnamate are aromatic compounds of industrial interest. Current trends support replacement of chemical synthesis of these compounds by ‘green’ alternatives produced in microbial cell factories. The solvent-tolerant Pseudomonas putida DOT-T1E strain was genetically modified to produce up to 1 g l−1 of l-phenylalanine. In order to engineer this strain, we carried out the following stepwise process: (1) we selected random mutants that are resistant to toxic phenylalanine analogues; (2) we then deleted up to five genes belonging to phenylalanine metabolism pathways, which greatly diminished the internal metabolism of phenylalanine; and (3) in these mutants, we overexpressed the pheA fbr gene, which encodes a recombinant variant of PheA that is insensitive to feedback inhibition by phenylalanine. Furthermore, by introducing new genes, we were able to further extend the diversity of compounds produced. Introduction of histidinol phosphate transferase (PP_0967), phenylpyruvate decarboxylase (kdc) and an alcohol dehydrogenase (adh) enabled the strain to produce up to 180 mg l−1 2-phenylethanol. When phenylalanine ammonia lyase (pal) was introduced, the resulting strain produced up to 200 mg l−1 of trans-cinnamate. These results demonstrate that P. putida can serve as a promising microbial cell factory for the production of l-phenylalanine and related compounds.
Mortierella alpina is a well-known polyunsaturated fatty acid-producing oleaginous fungus. Analysis of the Mort. alpina genome suggests that there is a putative dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) gene playing a role in the salvage pathway of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), which has never been explored in fungi before. DHFR is the sole source of tetrahydrofolate and plays a key role in maintaining BH4 levels. Transcriptome data analysis revealed that DHFR was up-regulated by nitrogen exhaustion, when Mort. alpina starts to accumulate lipids. Significant changes were found in the fatty acid profile in Mort. alpina grown on medium containing DHFR inhibitors compared to Mort. alpina grown on medium without inhibitors. To explore the role of DHFR in folate/BH4 metabolism and its relationship to lipid biosynthesis, we expressed heterologously the gene encoding DHFR from Mort. alpina in Escherichia coli and we purified the recombinant enzyme to homogeneity. The enzymatic activity was investigated by liquid chromatography and MS and VIS–UV spectroscopy. The kinetic parameters and the effects of temperature, pH, metal ions and inhibitors on the activity of DHFR were also investigated. The transcript level of cytosolic NADPH-producing gene involved in folate metabolism is down-regulated by DHFR inhibitors, which highlights the functional significance of DHFR in lipid biosynthesis. The relationship between DHFR and lipid metabolism is thus of major importance, and folate metabolism may be an alternative NADPH source in fatty acid synthesis. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report the comprehensive characterization of a BH4salvage pathway in a fungus.