Engineering of thioesterase YciA from Haemophilus influenzae for production of carboxylic acids

L. Pöschel, M. Guevara‑Martínez, D. Hörnström, A. J. A. van Maris, M. Buchhaupt


Acyl-CoA-thioesterases, which hydrolyze acyl-CoA-esters and thereby release the respective acid, have essential functions in cellular metabolism and have also been used to produce valuable compounds in biotechnological processes. Thioesterase YciA originating from Haemophilus infuenzae has been previously used to produce specifc dicarboxylic acids from CoA-bound intermediates of the ethylmalonyl CoA pathway (EMCP) in Methylorubrum extorquens. In order to identify variants of the YciA enzyme with the capability to hydrolyze so far inaccessible CoA-esters of the EMCP or with improved productivity, we engineered the substrate-binding region of the enzyme. Screening a small semi-rational mutant library directly in M. extorquens yielded the F35L variant which showed a drastic product level increase for mesaconic acid (6.4- fold) and 2-methylsuccinic acid (4.4-fold) compared to the unaltered YciA enzyme. Unexpectedly, in vitro enzyme assays using respective M. extorquens cell extracts or recombinantly produced thioesterases could not deliver congruent data, as the F35L variant showed strongly reduced activity in these experiments. However, applied in an Escherichia coli production strain, the protein variant again outperformed the wild-type enzyme by allowing threefold increased 3-hydroxybutyric acid product titers. Saturation mutagenesis of the codon for position 35 led to the identifcation of another highly effcient YciA variant and enabled structure-function interpretations. Our work describes an important module for dicarboxylic acid production with M. extorquens and can guide future thioesterase improvement approaches.

Key points

  • Substitutions at position F35 of YciAHI changed the productivity of YciA-based release of carboxylic acid products in M. extorquens AM1 and E. coli.
  • YciAHI F35N and F35L are improved variants for dicarboxylic production of 2-methylsuccinic acid and mesaconic acid with M. extorquens AM1.
  • In vitro enzyme assays did not reveal superior properties of the optimized protein variants.


Methylorubrum extorquens, Thioesterase, Dicarboxylic acids, 3-Hydroxybutyric acid, Enzyme engineering

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