Long-chain Alkane Production by the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Journal article, 2015
In the past decade industrial-scale production of renewable transportation biofuels has been developed as an alternative to fossil fuels, with ethanol as the most prominent biofuel and yeast as the production organism of choice. However, ethanol is a less efficient substitute fuel for heavy-duty and maritime transportation as well as aviation due to its low energy density. Therefore, new types of biofuels, such as alkanes, are being developed that can be used as drop-in fuels and can substitute gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. Here, we describe for the first time the heterologous biosynthesis of long-chain alkanes by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that elimination of the hexadecenal dehydrogenase Hfdl and expression of a redox system are essential for alkane biosynthesis in yeast. Deletion of HFDI together with expression of an alkane biosynthesis pathway resulted in the production of the alkanes tridecane, pentadecane, and heptadecane. Our study provides a proof of principle for producing long-chain alkanes in the industrial workhorse S. cerevisiae, which was so far limited to bacteria. We anticipate that these findings will be a key factor for further yeast engineering to enable industrial production of alkane based drop-in biofuels, which can allow the biofuel industry to diversify beyond bioethanol.