Adaptively evolved Escherichia coli for improved ability of formate utilization as a carbon source in sugar-free conditions

Seung Jin Kim, Jihee Yoon, Dae Kyun Im, Yong Hwan Kim, Min Kyu Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Formate converted from CO2 reduction has great potential as a sustainable feedstock for biological production of biofuels and biochemicals. Nevertheless, utilization of formate for growth and chemical production by microbial species is limited due to its toxicity or the lack of a metabolic pathway. Here, we constructed a formate assimilation pathway in Escherichia coli and applied adaptive laboratory evolution to improve formate utilization as a carbon source in sugar-free conditions. Results: The genes related to the tetrahydrofolate and serine cycles from Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 were overexpressed for formate assimilation, which was proved by the 13C-labeling experiments. The amino acids detected by GC/MS showed significant carbon labeling due to biomass production from formate. Then, 150 serial subcultures were performed to screen for evolved strains with improved ability to utilize formate. The genomes of evolved mutants were sequenced and the mutations were associated with formate dehydrogenation, folate metabolism, and biofilm formation. Last, 90 mg/L of ethanol production from formate was achieved using fed-batch cultivation without addition of sugars. Conclusion: This work demonstrates the effectiveness of the introduction of a formate assimilation pathway, combined with adaptive laboratory evolution, to achieve the utilization of formate as a carbon source. This study suggests that the constructed E. coli could serve as a strain to exploit formate and captured CO2.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1547
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept 3

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Adaptive laboratory evolution
  • Carbon-labeling experiment
  • Escherichia coli
  • Formate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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