Malic enzyme catalyzes the reversible oxidative decarboxylation of malate to pyruvate and CO2. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae MAE1 gene encodes a mitochondrial malic enzyme whose proposed physiological roles are related to the oxidative, malate-decarboxylating reaction. Hitherto, the inability of pyruvate-carboxylase-negative (Pyc(-)) S. cerevisiae strains to grow on glucose suggested that Mae1p cannot act as a pyruvate-carboxylating, anaplerotic enzyme. In this study, relocation of malic enzyme to the cytosol and creation of thermodynamically favorable conditions for pyruvate carboxylation by metabolic engineering, process design and adaptive evolution, enabled malic enzyme to act as sole anaplerotic enzyme in S. cerevisiae. The Escherichia coli NADH-dependent sfcA malic enzyme was expressed in a Pyc(-) S. cerevisiae background. When PDC2, a transcriptional regulator of pyruvate decarboxylase genes, was deleted to increase intracellular pyruvate levels and cells were grown under a CO2 atmosphere to favor carboxylation, adaptive evolution yielded a strain that grew on glucose (specific growth rate 0.06 +/- 0.01 h(-1)). Growth of the evolved strain was enabled by a single point mutation (Asp336Gly) that switched the cofactor preference of E. coli malic enzyme from NADH to NADPH. Consistently, cytosolic relocalization of the native Mae1p, which can use both NADH and NADPH, in a pyc1,2Delta pdc2Delta strain grown under a CO2 atmosphere, also enabled slow growth on glucose. Although growth rates of these strains are still low, the higher ATP efficiency of carboxylation via malic enzyme, as compared to the pyruvate carboxylase pathway, may contribute to metabolic engineering of S. cerevisiae for anaerobic, high-yield C4-dicarboxylic acid production.
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