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Developing Clostridia as Cell Factories for Short- and Medium-Chain Ester Production

  • Wang, Qingzhuo1
  • Al Makishah, Naief H.2
  • Li, Qi3
  • Li, Yanan1
  • Liu, Wenzheng1
  • Sun, Xiaoman1
  • Wen, Zhiqiang1
  • Yang, Sheng4, 5
  • 1 School of Food Science and Pharmaceutical Engineering, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing , (China)
  • 2 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Meteorology, Environment and Arid Land Agriculture, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah , (Saudi Arabia)
  • 3 College of Life Sciences, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu , (China)
  • 4 Huzhou Center of Industrial Biotechnology, Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai , (China)
  • 5 Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology, CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences, Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai , (China)
Published Article
Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jun 07, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.661694
  • Bioengineering and Biotechnology
  • Mini Review


Short- and medium-chain volatile esters with flavors and fruity fragrances, such as ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and butyl butyrate, are usually value-added in brewing, food, and pharmacy. The esters can be naturally produced by some microorganisms. As ester-forming reactions are increasingly deeply understood, it is possible to produce esters in non-natural but more potential hosts. Clostridia are a group of important industrial microorganisms since they can produce a variety of volatile organic acids and alcohols with high titers, especially butanol and butyric acid through the CoA-dependent carbon chain elongation pathway. This implies sufficient supplies of acyl-CoA, organic acids, and alcohols in cells, which are precursors for ester production. Besides, some Clostridia could utilize lignocellulosic biomass, industrial off-gas, or crude glycerol to produce other branched or straight-chain alcohols and acids. Therefore, Clostridia offer great potential to be engineered to produce short- and medium-chain volatile esters. In the review, the efforts to produce esters from Clostridia via in vitro lipase-mediated catalysis and in vivo alcohol acyltransferase (AAT)-mediated reaction are comprehensively revisited. Besides, the advantageous characteristics of several Clostridia and clostridial consortia for bio-ester production and the driving force of synthetic biology to clostridial chassis development are also discussed. It is believed that synthetic biotechnology should enable the future development of more effective Clostridia for ester production.

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