BackgroundIsobutanol is a promising candidate as second-generation biofuel and has several advantages compared to bioethanol. Another benefit of isobutanol is that it is already formed as a by-product in fermentations with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although only in very small amounts. Isobutanol formation results from valine degradation in the cytosol via the Ehrlich pathway. In contrast, valine is synthesized from pyruvate in mitochondria. This spatial separation into two different cell compartments is one of the limiting factors for higher isobutanol production in yeast. Furthermore, some intermediate metabolites are also substrates for various isobutanol competing pathways, reducing the metabolic flux toward isobutanol production. We hypothesized that a relocation of all enzymes involved in anabolic and catabolic reactions of valine metabolism in only one cell compartment, the cytosol, in combination with blocking non-essential isobutanol competing pathways will increase isobutanol production in yeast.ResultsHere, we overexpressed the three endogenous enzymes acetolactate synthase (Ilv2), acetohydroxyacid reductoisomerase (Ilv5) and dihydroxy-acid dehydratase (Ilv3) of the valine synthesis pathway in the cytosol and blocked the first step of mitochondrial valine synthesis by disrupting endogenous ILV2, leading to a 22-fold increase of isobutanol production up to 0.22 g/L (5.28 mg/g glucose) with aerobic shake flask cultures. Then, we successively deleted essential genes of competing pathways for synthesis of 2,3-butanediol (BDH1 and BDH2), leucine (LEU4 and LEU9), pantothenate (ECM31) and isoleucine (ILV1) resulting in an optimized metabolic flux toward isobutanol and titers of up to 0.56 g/L (13.54 mg/g glucose). Reducing ethanol formation by deletion of the ADH1 gene encoding the major alcohol dehydrogenase did not result in further increased isobutanol production, but in strongly enhanced glycerol formation. Nevertheless, deletion of glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase genes GPD1 and GPD2 prevented formation of glycerol and increased isobutanol production up to 1.32 g/L. Finally, additional deletion of aldehyde dehydrogenase gene ALD6 reduced the synthesis of the by-product isobutyrate, thereby further increasing isobutanol production up to 2.09 g/L with a yield of 59.55 mg/g glucose, corresponding to a more than 200-fold increase compared to the wild type.ConclusionsBy overexpressing a cytosolic isobutanol synthesis pathway and by blocking non-essential isobutanol competing pathways, we could achieve isobutanol production with a yield of 59.55 mg/g glucose, which is the highest yield ever obtained with S. cerevisiae in shake flask cultures. Nevertheless, our results indicate a still limiting capacity of the isobutanol synthesis pathway itself.