Development of an autotrophic fermentation technique for the production of fatty acids using an engineered Ralstonia eutropha cell factory

  • Zhongkang Li
  • Bin Xiong
  • Li Liu
  • Siwei Li
  • Xiuqing Xin
  • Zhi Li
  • Xueli ZhangEmail author
  • ChangHao BiEmail author
Fermentation, Cell Culture and Bioengineering - Original Paper


Massive emission of CO2 into atmosphere from consumption of carbon deposit is causing climate change. Researchers have applied metabolic engineering and synthetic biology techniques for improving CO2 fixation efficiency in many species. One solution might be the utilization of autotrophic bacteria, which have great potential to be engineered into microbial cell factories for CO2 fixation and the production of chemicals, independent of fossil resources. In this work, several pathways of Ralstonia eutropha H16 were modulated by manipulation of heterologous and endogenous genes related to fatty acid synthesis. The resulting strain B2(pCT, pFP) was able to produce 124.48 mg/g (cell dry weight) free fatty acids with fructose as carbon source, a fourfold increase over the parent strain H16. To develop a truly autotrophic fermentation technique with H2, CO2 and O2 as substrates, we assembled a relatively safe, continuous, lab-scale gas fermentation system using micro-fermentation tanks, H2 supplied by a hydrogen generator, and keeping the H2 to O2 ratio at 7:1. The system was equipped with a H2 gas alarm, rid of heat sources and placed into a fume hood to further improve the safety. With this system, the best strain B2(pCT, pFP) produced 60.64 mg free fatty acids per g biomass within 48 h, growing in minimal medium supplemented with 9 × 103 mL/L/h hydrogen gas. Thus, an autotrophic fermentation technique to produce fatty acids was successfully established, which might inspire further research on autotrophic gas fermentation with a safe, lab-scale setup, and provides an alternative solution for environmental and energy problems.


Autotrophic fermentation Fatty acid synthesis Ralstonia eutropha 



This research was financially supported by the Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Science (KFZD-SW-215, ZDRW-ZS-2016-3), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31522002, 31770105).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

10295_2019_2156_MOESM1_ESM.docx (389 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 389 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 2019
corrected publication 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhongkang Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bin Xiong
    • 2
    • 3
  • Li Liu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Siwei Li
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xiuqing Xin
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhi Li
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xueli Zhang
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • ChangHao Bi
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.University of Sciences and Technology of ChinaHefeiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of SciencesTianjinPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Systems Microbial BiotechnologyChinese Academy of SciencesTianjinPeople’s Republic of China

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