Sustainable production of n-methylphenylalanine by reductive methylamination of phenylpyruvate using engineered corynebacterium glutamicum

Anastasia Kerbs, Melanie Mindt, Lynn Schwardmann, Volker F. Wendisch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


N-alkylated amino acids occur widely in nature and can also be found in bioactive secondary metabolites such as the glycopeptide antibiotic vancomycin and the immunosuppressant cyclosporine A. To meet the demand for N-alkylated amino acids, they are currently produced chemically; however, these approaches often lack enantiopurity, show low product yields and re-quire toxic reagents. Fermentative routes to N-alkylated amino acids like N-methyl-L-alanine or N-methylantranilate, a precursor of acridone alkaloids, have been established using engineered Corynebacterium glutamicum, which has been used for the industrial production of amino acids for decades. Here, we describe metabolic engineering of C. glutamicum for de novo production of N-methylphenylalanine based on reductive methylamination of phenylpyruvate. Pseudomonas putida ∆-1-piperideine-2-carboxylate reductase DpkA containing the amino acid exchanges P262A and M141L showed comparable catalytic efficiencies with phenylpyruvate and pyruvate, whereas the wild-type enzyme preferred the latter substrate over the former. Deletion of the anthranilate syn-thase genes trpEG and of the genes encoding branched-chain amino acid aminotransferase IlvE and phenylalanine aminotransferase AroT in a strain engineered to overproduce anthranilate abolished biosynthesis of L-tryptophan and L-phenylalanine to accumulate phenylpyruvate. Upon heterolo-gous expression of DpkAP262A,M141L, N-methylphenylalanine production resulted upon addition of monomethylamine to the medium. In glucose-based minimal medium, an N-methylphenylalanine titer of 0.73 ± 0.05 g L−1, a volumetric productivity of 0.01 g L−1 h−1 and a yield of 0.052 g g−1 glucose were reached. When xylose isomerase gene xylA from Xanthomonas campestris and the endogenous xylulokinase gene xylB were expressed in addition, xylose as sole carbon source supported production of N-methylphenylalanine to a titer of 0.6 ± 0.04 g L−1 with a volumetric productivity of 0.008 g L−1 h−1 and a yield of 0.05 g g−1 xylose. Thus, a fermentative route to sustainable production of N-methylphenylalanine by recombinant C. glutamicum has been established.

Original languageEnglish
Article number824
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2021


  • Corynebac-terium glutamicum
  • DpkA
  • Metabolic engineering
  • N-functionalized amines
  • Sustainable production of N-methylphenylalanine


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