A Korean research team led by Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) reported, for the first time, the production of 1,3-diaminopropane via fermentation of an engineered bacterium. 1,3- diaminopropane is a three carbon diamine, which has a wide range of industrial applications including epoxy resin and cross-linking agents, as well as precursors for pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and organic chemicals. It can also be polymerized with dicarboxylic acids to make polyamides (nylons) for use as engineering plastics, medical materials, and adhesives. Traditionally, 1,3-diaminopropane is derived from petroleum- based processes. In an effort to address critical problems such as the depletion of petroleum and environmental issues inherent to the petroleum- based processes, the research team has developed an Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain capable of producing 1,3-diaminopropane.
The researchers utilized metabolic engineering to engineer the E.coli strain to produce 1,3-diaminopropane. E. coli as found in nature is unable to produce 1,3-diaminopropane. Metabolic engineering is a technology to transform microorganisms into highly efficient microbial cell factories capable of producing chemical compounds of interest. First, naturally existing metabolic pathways for the biosynthesis of 1,3-diaminopropane were introduced into a virtual cell in silico to determine the most efficient metabolic pathway for the 1,3-diaminopropane production. The metabolic pathway selected was then introduced into an E. coli strain and successfully produced 1,3 diaminopropane for the first time in the world.
The research team applied metabolic engineering additionally, and the production titer of 1,3-diaminopropane increased about 21 fold. The fedbatch fermentation of the engineered E. coli strain produced 13 grams per liter of 1,3-diaminoproapne. With this technology, 1,3-diaminopropane can be produced using renewable biomass, and it will be the starting point for replacing the current petroleum-based processes with bio-based processes. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.