Gabriele Romagnoli, Theo A. Knijnenburg, Gianni Liti, Edward J. Louis, Jack T. Pronk, Jean-Marc Daran

13 May 2014, DOI: 10.1002/yea.3015

Phenylethanol has a characteristic rose-like aroma that makes it a popular ingredient in foods, beverages and cosmetics. Microbial production of phenylethanol currently relies on whole-cell bioconversion of phenylalanine with yeasts that harbour an Ehrlich pathway for phenylalanine catabolism. Complete biosynthesis of phenylethanol from a cheap carbon source, such as glucose, provides an economically attractive alternative for phenylalanine bioconversion. In this study, synthetic genetic array (SGA) screening was applied to identify genes involved in regulation of phenylethanol synthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The screen focused on transcriptional regulation of ARO10, which encodes the major decarboxylase involved in conversion of phenylpyruvate to phenylethanol. A deletion in ARO8, which encodes an aromatic amino acid transaminase, was found to underlie the transcriptional upregulation of ARO10 during growth, with ammonium sulphate as the sole nitrogen source. Physiological characterization revealed that the aro8Δ mutation led to substantial changes in the absolute and relative intracellular concentrations of amino acids. Moreover, deletion of ARO8 led to de novo production of phenylethanol during growth on a glucose synthetic medium with ammonium as the sole nitrogen source. The aro8Δ mutation also stimulated phenylethanol production when combined with other, previously documented, mutations that deregulate aromatic amino acid biosynthesis in S. cerevisiae. The resulting engineered S. cerevisiae strain produced >3 mm phenylethanol from glucose during growth on a simple synthetic medium. The strong impact of a transaminase deletion on intracellular amino acid concentrations opens new possibilities for yeast-based production of amino acid-derived products.