Escherichia coli-based whole-cell biocatalysts are widely used for the sustainable production of value-added chemicals. However, weak acids present as substrates and/or products obstruct the growth and fermentation capability of E. coli. Here, we show that a viroporin consisting of the influenza A matrix-2 (M2) protein, is activated by low pH and has proton channel activity in E. coli. The heterologous expression of the M2 protein in E. coli resulted in a significant increase in the intracellular pH and cell viability in the presence of various weak acids with different lengths of carbon chains. In addition, the feasibility of developing a robust and efficient E. coli-based whole-cell biocatalyst via introduction of the proton-selective viroporin was explored by employing (Z)-11-(heptanolyoxy)undec-9-enoic acid (ester) and 2-fucosyllactose (2′-FL) as model products, whose production is hampered by cytosolic acidification. The engineered E. coli strains containing the proton-selective viroporin exhibited approximately 80% and 230% higher concentrations of the ester and 2′-FL, respectively, than the control strains without the M2 protein. The simple and powerful strategy developed in this study can be applied to produce other valuable chemicals whose production involves substrates and/or products that cause cytosolic acidification.
- (Z)-11-(heptanolyoxy)undec-9-enoic acid
- Acid tolerance
- Influenza A matrix-2 protein
- Whole-cell biotransformation