Systems metabolic engineering of Corynebacterium glutamicum for the bioproduction of biliverdin via protoporphyrin independent pathway

Jiho Seok, Young Jin Ko, Myeong Eun Lee, Jeong Eun Hyeon, Sung Ok Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Biliverdin, a prospective recyclable antioxidant and one of the most important precursors for optogenetics, has received growing attention. Biliverdin is currently produced by oxidation of bilirubin from mammalian bile using chemicals. However, unsustainable procedures of extraction, chemical oxidation, and isomer separation have prompted bio-based production using a microbial cell factory. Results: In vitro thermodynamic analysis was performed to show potential candidates of bottleneck enzymes in the pathway to produce biliverdin. Among the candidates, hemA and hemL were overexpressed in Corynebacterium glutamicum to produce heme, precursor of biliverdin. To increase precursor supply, we suggested a novel hemQ-mediated coproporphyrin dependent pathway rather than noted hemN-mediated protoporphyrin dependent pathway in C. glutamicum. After securing precursors, hmuO was overexpressed to pull the carbon flow to produce biliverdin. Through modular optimization using gene rearrangements of hemA, hemL, hemQ, and hmuO, engineered C. glutamicum BV004 produced 11.38 ± 0.47 mg/L of biliverdin at flask scale. Fed-batch fermentations performed in 5 L bioreactor with minimal medium using glucose as a sole carbon source resulted in the accumulation of 68.74 ± 4.97 mg/L of biliverdin, the highest titer to date to the best of our knowledge. Conclusions: We developed an eco-friendly microbial cell factory to produce biliverdin using C. glutamicum as a biosystem. Moreover, we suggested that C. glutamicum has the thermodynamically favorable coproporphyrin dependent pathway. This study indicated that C. glutamicum can work as a powerful platform to produce biliverdin as well as heme-related products based on the rational design with in vitro thermodynamic analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalJournal of Biological Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Mar 29

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Biliverdin
  • Coproporphyrin dependent pathway
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum
  • In vitro thermodynamic analysis
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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