BackgroundCyanobacteria can be metabolically engineered to convert CO2 to fuels and chemicals such as ethylene. A major challenge in such efforts is to optimize carbon fixation and partition towards target molecules.ResultsThe efe gene encoding an ethylene-forming enzyme was introduced into a strain of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 with increased phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPc) levels. The resulting engineered strain (CD-P) showed significantly increased ethylene production (10.5 ± 3.1 µg mL−1 OD−1 day−1) compared to the control strain (6.4 ± 1.4 µg mL−1 OD−1 day−1). Interestingly, extra copies of the native pepc or the heterologous expression of PEPc from the cyanobacterium Synechococcus PCC 7002 (Synechococcus) in the CD-P, increased ethylene production (19.2 ± 1.3 and 18.3 ± 3.3 µg mL−1 OD−1 day−1, respectively) when the cells were treated with the acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor, cycloxydim. A heterologous expression of phosphoenolpyruvate synthase (PPSA) from Synechococcus in the CD-P also increased ethylene production (16.77 ± 4.48 µg mL−1 OD−1 day−1) showing differences in the regulation of the native and the PPSA from Synechococcus in Synechocystis.ConclusionsThis work demonstrates that genetic rewiring of cyanobacterial central carbon metabolism can enhance carbon supply to the TCA cycle and thereby further increase ethylene production.