Engineering microbial chemical factories to produce renewable "biomonomers"

Jake Adkins, Shawn Pugh, Rebekah McKenna, David Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


By applying metabolic engineering tools and strategies to engineer synthetic enzyme pathways, the number and diversity of commodity and specialty chemicals that can be derived directly from renewable feedstocks is rapidly and continually expanding. This of course includes a number of monomer building-block chemicals that can be used to produce replacements to many conventional plastic materials. This review aims to highlight numerous recent and important advancements in the microbial production of these so-called "biomonomers." Relative to naturally-occurring renewable bioplastics, biomonomers offer several important advantages, including improved control over the final polymer structure and purity, the ability to synthesize non-natural copolymers, and allowing products to be excreted from cells which ultimately streamlines downstream recovery and purification. To highlight these features, a handful of biomonomers have been selected as illustrative examples of recent works, including polyamide monomers, styrenic vinyls, hydroxyacids, and diols. Where appropriate, examples of their industrial penetration to date and end-product uses are also highlighted. Novel biomonomers such as these are ultimately paving the way toward new classes of renewable bioplastics that possess a broader diversity of properties than ever before possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2012


  • Bioplastics
  • Biopolymers
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Monomers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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