We have previously introduced a reconstructed isoprenoid pathway into Escherichia coli that exhibits amplified biosynthetic flux to geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP), a common isoprenoid precursor. It was shown that GGPP synthase is an important rate-controlling enzyme in this reconstructed isoprenoid pathway. In this investigation, we applied directed evolution to GGPP synthase from Archaeoglobus fulgidus to enable the enhanced production of carotenoids in metabolically engineered E. coli. Eight mutants were isolated, and the best one increased lycopene production by 100%. Among the mutants that were isolated, mutation points were clustered in four "hot regions". The "hottest" region is located in the sequence upstream of the coding region, which presumably improves the expression level of the enzyme. The other three are within the coding sequence and are believed to improve the enzyme-specific activity in E coli. These results demonstrate that modulating both enzymatic expression and specific activity are important for optimizing the metabolic flux distribution.
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