Corynebacterium glutamicum shows a great potential for the production of the polyamide monomer putrescine (1,4-diaminobutane). Previously, we constructed the putrescine-producing strain PUT1 by deletion of argF, the gene for ornithine transcarbamoylase (OTC), and argR, encoding the L-arginine repressor, combined with heterologous expression of the Escherichia coli gene for L-ornithine decarboxylase SpeC. As a consequence of argF deletion, this strain requires supplementation of L-arginine and shows growth-decoupled putrescine production. To avoid costly supplementation with L-arginine and the strong feedback inhibition of the key enzyme N-acetylglutamate kinase (ArgB) by L-arginine, a plasmid addiction system for low-level argF expression was developed. By fine-tuning argF expression through modifications of the promoter, the translational start codon and/or the ribosome binding site, high productivity and titer could be obtained. OTC activity varied almost thousandfold between 960 and 1 mU mg⁻¹ resulting in putrescine yields on glucose from less than 0.001 up to 0.26 g g⁻¹, the highest yield in bacteria reported to date. The most promising strain, designated PUT21, was characterized comprehensively. PUT21 strain grew with a rate of 0.19 h⁻¹ in mineral salt medium without the need for L-arginine supplementation and produced putrescine with a yield of 0.16 g g⁻¹ glucose at a volumetric productivity of 0.57 g L⁻¹ h⁻¹ and a specific productivity of 0.042 g g⁻¹ h⁻¹. The carbon balance suggested that no major unidentified by-product was produced. Compared to the first-generation strain PUT1, the putrescine yield observed with PUT21 was increased by 60%. In fed-batch cultivation with C. glutamicum PUT21, a putrescine titer of 19 g L⁻¹ at a volumetric productivity of 0.55 g L⁻¹ h⁻¹ and a yield of 0.16 g g⁻¹ glucose could be achieved. Moreover, while plasmid segregation of the initial strain required antibiotic selection, plasmid segregation in C. glutamicum PUT21 was fully stable for more than 60 generations without antibiotic selection even in the presence of L-arginine. The ornithine decarboxylase gene speC was expressed from this argF addiction plasmid ensuring stable putrescine production by the engineered C. glutamicum strain.
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