Interest in the production of carbon commodities from photosynthetically fixed CO2 has focused attention on cyanobacteria as a target for metabolic engineering and pathway investigation. We investigated the redirection of carbon flux in the model cyanobacterial species, Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, under nitrogen deprivation, for optimised production of the industrially desirable compound, pyruvate. Under nitrogen limited conditions, excess carbon is naturally stored as the multi-branched polysaccharide, glycogen, but a block in glycogen synthesis, via knockout mutation in the gene encoding ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (glgC), results in the accumulation of the organic acids, pyruvate and 2-oxoglutarate, as overflow excretions into the extracellular media. The ∆glgC strain, under 48 hours of N-deprivation was shown to excrete pyruvate for the first time in this strain. Additionally, by increasing culture pH, to pH 10, it was possible to substantially elevate excretion of pyruvate, suggesting the involvement of an unknown substrate/proton symporter for export. The ∆glgC mutant was also engineered to express foreign transporters for glucose and sucrose, and then grown photomixotrophically with exogenous organic carbon supply, as added 5 mM glucose or sucrose during N- deprivation. Under these conditions we observed a four-fold increase in extracellular pyruvate excretion when glucose was added, and a smaller increase with added sucrose. Although the magnitude of pyruvate excretion did not correlate with the capacity of the ∆glgC strain for bicarbonate-dependent photosynthetic O2 evolution, or with light intensity, there was, however, a positive correlation observed between the density of the starter culture prior to N-deprivation and the final extracellular pyruvate concentration. The factors that contribute to enhancement of pyruvate excretion are discussed, as well as consideration of whether the source of carbon for pyruvate excretion might be derived from photosynthetic CO¬2 fixation or from remobilisation of existing carbon stores
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