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Light-driven CO2 sequestration in Escherichia coli to achieve theoretical yield of chemicals


CO2 sequestration engineering is an attractive strategy for achieving carbon- and energy-efficient bioproduction. However, the efficiency of heterotrophic CO2 sequestration is limited by bioproduct dependence and energy deficiency. Here, modular CO2 sequestration engineering was developed to produce target chemicals by integrating synthetic CO2 fixation and CO2 mitigation modules. A synthetic CO2 fixation pathway was designed, and then enhanced by light-driven reducing power using self-assembled cadmium sulfide nanoparticles. Next, a CO2 mitigation switch was designed, and then optimized by light-driven energy via proteorhodopsin. Finally, by integrating CO2 fixation and CO2 mitigation modules, the efficiency of CO2 sequestration was notably enhanced in Escherichia coli and the yields of l-malate and butyrate were increased to 1.48 and 0.79 mol/mol glucose, respectively, reaching theoretical yields. This CO2 sequestration system provides an efficient platform for channelling CO2 into value-added chemicals.

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Fig. 1: Rational design of light-driven CO2 sequestration for improving carbon yield in E. coli.
Fig. 2: Design and construction of HWLS pathway.
Fig. 3: Construction and application of light-driven CO2 fixation in E. coli.
Fig. 4: Carbon balance analysis of l-malate production in the anaerobic fermentation stage.
Fig. 5: Design and characterization of basic units for synthetic switch PN2NdhR in E. coli.
Fig. 6: Construction and application of light-driven CO2 mitigation in E. coli.
Fig. 7: Application of light-driven CO2 sequestration for butyrate production in E. coli.

Data availability

Data supporting the findings of this work are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files. The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon request. Data were collected using the software Microsoft Excel, Dionex UltiMate 3000 Series, SoftMax pro and iBright FL1000. Source data are provided with this paper.


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This work is supported by the Key Programme of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 22038005 to L.L.), the National Key R&D Program of China (grant nos. 2020YFA0908500 to L.L. and 2019YFA0904900 to X.C.), National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 21978113 to X.C. and 22008087 to C.G.) and the National First-Class Discipline Program of Light Industry Technology and Engineering (grant no. LITE2018-08 to L.L.). We thank Y. Li for providing the genomic DNA of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, X. Xu for the autodock and Y. Qian for protein structure analysis.

Author information




G.H., X.C. and L.L. conceived the project and wrote the paper. G.H., Z.L., D.M. and L.Z. designed and performed all the experiments. G.H., C.Y. and C.G. analysed the results.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xiulai Chen.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Catalysis thanks Anne Gompf, Bryan P. Tracy, Han Min Woo and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–36, Tables 1–6, Notes 1–4 and References 1–21.

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Supplementary Data

Source data for Supplementary Figs. 1, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 25–28, 31, 32 and 34–36.

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Unprocessed gels Fig. 2b.

Source Data Fig. 3

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Source Data Fig. 5

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Hu, G., Li, Z., Ma, D. et al. Light-driven CO2 sequestration in Escherichia coli to achieve theoretical yield of chemicals. Nat Catal 4, 395–406 (2021).

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