Biological conversion of gaseous alkenes to liquid chemicals

Shuchi H. Desai, Irina Koryakina, Anna E. Case, Michael D. Toney, Shota Atsumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Industrial gas-to-liquid (GTL) technologies are well developed. They generally employ syngas, require complex infrastructure, and need high capital investment to be economically viable. Alternatively, biological conversion has the potential to be more efficient, and easily deployed to remote areas on relatively small scales for the utilization of otherwise stranded resources. The present study demonstrates a novel biological GTL process in which engineered Escherichia coli converts C2–C4 gaseous alkenes into liquid diols. Diols are versatile industrially important chemicals, used routinely as antifreeze agents, polymer precursors amongst many other applications. Heterologous co-expression of a monooxygenase and an epoxide hydrolase in E. coli allows whole cell conversion of C2–C4 alkenes for the formation of ethylene glycol, 1,2-propanediol, 1,2-butanediol, and 2,3-butanediol at ambient temperature and pressure in one pot. Increasing intracellular NADH supply via addition of formate and a formate dehydrogenase increases ethylene glycol production titers, resulting in an improved productivity of 9 mg/L/h and a final titer of 250 mg/L. This represents a novel biological method for GTL conversion of alkenes to industrially valuable diols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-104
Number of pages7
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Alkenes
  • Biological gas to liquid conversion
  • Diols
  • Metabolic engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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