Metabolic engineering strategies for butanol production in Escherichia coli

Sofia Ferreira, Rui Pereira, S. A. Wahl, Isabel Rocha

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The global market of butanol is increasing due to its growing applications as solvent, flavoring agent, and chemical precursor of several other compounds. Recently, the superior properties of n-butanol as a biofuel over ethanol have stimulated even more interest. (Bio)butanol is natively produced together with ethanol and acetone by Clostridium species through acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation, at noncompetitive, low titers compared to petrochemical production. Different butanol production pathways have been expressed in Escherichia coli, a more accessible host compared to Clostridium species, to improve butanol titers and rates. The bioproduction of butanol is here reviewed from a historical and theoretical perspective. All tested rational metabolic engineering strategies in E. coli to increase butanol titers are reviewed: manipulation of central carbon metabolism, elimination of competing pathways, cofactor balancing, development of new pathways, expression of homologous enzymes, consumption of different substrates, and molecular biology strategies. The progress in the field of metabolic modeling and pathway generation algorithms and their potential application to butanol production are also summarized here. The main goals are to gather all the strategies, evaluate the respective progress obtained, identify, and exploit the outstanding challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2571-2587
Number of pages17
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • biofuels
  • butanol
  • Escherichia coli
  • genome-scale metabolic models
  • metabolic engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic engineering strategies for butanol production in Escherichia coli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this