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A comprehensive metabolic map for production of bio-based chemicals


Production of industrial chemicals using renewable biomass feedstock is becoming increasingly important to address limited fossil resources, climate change and other environmental problems. To develop high-performance microbial cell factories, equivalent to chemical plants, microorganisms undergo systematic metabolic engineering to efficiently convert biomass-derived carbon sources into target chemicals. Over the past two decades, many engineered microorganisms capable of producing natural and non-natural chemicals have been developed. This Review details the current status of representative industrial chemicals that are produced through biological and/or chemical reactions. We present a comprehensive bio-based chemicals map that highlights the strategies and pathways of single or multiple biological reactions, chemical reactions and combinations thereof towards production of particular chemicals of interest. Future challenges are also discussed to enable production of even more diverse chemicals and more efficient production of chemicals from renewable feedstocks.

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This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Author information

S.Y.L. conceived the project and designed the study. All authors analysed literature, compiled data, planned the content and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Sang Yup Lee.

Supplementary Information

  1. Supplementary Data 1

    Bio-based chemicals map in poster format

  2. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Note 1–2, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary References

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Industrial chemicals and materials produced using both biological and chemical methods.
Fig. 2: Industrial chemicals and materials produced using only biological reactions.
Fig. 3: Novel biosynthetic pathways by retrobiosynthesis and enzyme engineering.
Fig. 4: Production processes using biological and/or chemical reactions.