Genetically encoded biosensors for branched-chain amino acid metabolism to monitor mitochondrial and cytosolic production of isobutanol and isopentanol in yeast

Publication Year


Journal Article
Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) metabolism can be harnessed to produce many valuable chemicals. Among these, isobutanol, which is derived from valine degradation, has received substantial attention due to its promise as an advanced biofuel. While Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the preferred organism for isobutanol production, the lack of isobutanol biosensors in this organism has limited the ability to screen strains at high throughput. Here, we use a transcriptional regulator of BCAA biosynthesis, Leu3p, to develop the first genetically encoded biosensor for isobutanol production in yeast. Small modifications allowed us to redeploy Leu3p in a second biosensor for isopentanol, another BCAA-derived product of interest. Each biosensor is highly specific to isobutanol or isopentanol, respectively, and was used to engineer metabolic enzymes to increase titers. The isobutanol biosensor was additionally employed to isolate high-producing strains, and guide the construction and enhancement of mitochondrial and cytosolic isobutanol biosynthetic pathways, including in combination with optogenetic actuators to enhance metabolic flux. These biosensors promise to accelerate the development of enzymes and strains for branched-chain higher alcohol production, and offer a blueprint to develop biosensors for other products derived from BCAA metabolism.