Report

Microbial Biosynthesis of Alkanes

Science  30 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5991, pp. 559-562
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187936

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Abstract

Alkanes, the major constituents of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, are naturally produced by diverse species; however, the genetics and biochemistry behind this biology have remained elusive. Here we describe the discovery of an alkane biosynthesis pathway from cyanobacteria. The pathway consists of an acyl–acyl carrier protein reductase and an aldehyde decarbonylase, which together convert intermediates of fatty acid metabolism to alkanes and alkenes. The aldehyde decarbonylase is related to the broadly functional nonheme diiron enzymes. Heterologous expression of the alkane operon in Escherichia coli leads to the production and secretion of C13 to C17 mixtures of alkanes and alkenes. These genes and enzymes can now be leveraged for the simple and direct conversion of renewable raw materials to fungible hydrocarbon fuels.

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