Microbial production of human milk oligosaccharide lactodifucotetraose

Angela Zhang, Lei Sun, Yuanyuan Bai, Hai Yu, John B. McArthur, Xi Chen, Shota Atsumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are potent bioactive compounds that modulate neonatal health and are of interest for development as potential drug treatments for adult diseases. The potential of these molecules, their limited access from natural sources, and difficulty in large-scale isolation of individual HMOs for studies and applications have motivated the development of chemical syntheses and in vitro enzymatic catalysis strategies. Whole cell biocatalysts are emerging as alternative self-regulating production platforms that have the potential to reduce the cost for enzymatic synthesis of HMOs. Whole cell biocatalysts for the production of short-chained, linear and small monofucosylated HMOs have been reported but those for fucosylated structures with higher complexity have not been explored. In this study, we established a strategy for producing a difucosylated HMO, lactodifucotetraose (LDFT), from lactose and L-fucose in Escherichia coli. We used two bacterial fucosyltransferases with narrow acceptor selectivity to drive the sequential fucosylation of lactose and intermediate 2′-fucosyllactose (2′-FL) to produce LDFT. Deletion of substrate degradation pathways that decoupled cellular growth from LDFT production, enhanced expression of native substrate transporters and modular induction of the genes in the LDFT biosynthetic pathway allowed complete conversion of lactose into LDFT and minor quantities of the side product 3-fucosyllactose (3-FL). Overall, 5.1 g/L of LDFT was produced from 3 g/L lactose and 3 g/L L-fucose in 24 h. Our results demonstrate promising applications of engineered microbial biosystems for the production of multi-fucosylated HMOs for biochemical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolic Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Carbohydrates
  • Fucosylation
  • Human milk oligosaccharides
  • Lactodifucotetraose
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Whole cell biocatalysts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial production of human milk oligosaccharide lactodifucotetraose'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this