Expanding the product profile of a microbial alkane biosynthetic pathway

Matthew Harger, Lei Zheng, Austin Moon, Casey Ager, Ju Hye An, Chris Choe, Yi Ling Lai, Benjamin Mo, David Zong, Matthew D. Smith, Robert G. Egbert, Jeremy H. Mills, David Baker, Ingrid Swanson Pultz, Justin B. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Microbially produced alkanes are a new class of biofuels that closely match the chemical composition of petroleum-based fuels. Alkanes can be generated from the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway by the reduction of acyl-ACPs followed by decarbonylation of the resulting aldehydes. A current limitation of this pathway is the restricted product profile, which consists of n-alkanes of 13, 15, and 17 carbons in length. To expand the product profile, we incorporated a new part, FabH2 from Bacillus subtilis, an enzyme known to have a broader specificity profile for fatty acid initiation than the native FabH of Escherichia coli. When provided with the appropriate substrate, the addition of FabH2 resulted in an altered alkane product profile in which significant levels of n-alkanes of 14 and 16 carbons in length are produced. The production of even chain length alkanes represents initial steps toward the expansion of this recently discovered microbial alkane production pathway to synthesize complex fuels. This work was conceived and performed as part of the 2011 University of Washington international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-62
Number of pages4
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 18 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Alkane biosynthesis
  • Biofuels
  • Fatty acid biosynthesis
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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