Anaerobic Production of Isoprene by Engineered Methanosarcina Species Archaea

Jared Aldridge, Sean Carr, Karrie A. Weber, Nicole R. Buan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Isoprene is a valuable petrochemical used for a wide variety of consumer goods, such as adhesives and synthetic rubber. We were able to achieve a high yield of renewable isoprene by taking advantage of the naturally high-flux mevalonate lipid synthesis pathway in anaerobic methane-producing archaea (methanogens). Our study illustrates that by genetically manipulating Methanosarcina species methanogens, it is possible to create organisms that grow by producing the hemiterpene isoprene. Mass balance measurements show that engineered methanogens direct up to 4% of total carbon flux to isoprene, demonstrating that methanogens produce higher isoprene yields than engineered yeast, bacteria, or cyanobacteria, and from inexpensive feedstocks. Expression of isoprene synthase resulted in increased biomass and changes in gene expression that indicate that isoprene synthesis depletes membrane precursors and redirects electron flux, enabling isoprene to be a major metabolic product. Our results demonstrate that methanogens are a promising engineering chassis for renewable isoprene synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02417-20
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Methanosarcina acetivorans
  • Methanosarcina barkeri
  • archaea
  • isoprene
  • isoprenogen
  • isoprenoids
  • ispS
  • metabolic engineering
  • methanogen
  • methanogenesis
  • mevalonate
  • mevalonate pathway
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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