In-cell NMR Approach for Real-time Exploration of Pathway Versatility: Substrate Mixtures in Non-Engineered Yeast

Francesca Sannelli, Pernille Rose Jensen*, Sebastian Meier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The central carbon metabolism of microbes will likely be used in future sustainable bioproduction. A sufficiently deep understanding of central metabolism would advance the control of activity and selectivity in whole-cell catalysis. Opposite to the more obvious effects of adding catalysts through genetic engineering, the modulation of cellular chemistry through effectors and substrate mixtures remains less clear. NMR spectroscopy is uniquely suited for in-cell tracking to advance mechanistic insight and to optimize pathway usage. Using a comprehensive and self-consistent library of chemical shifts, hyperpolarized NMR, and conventional NMR, we probe the versatility of cellular pathways to changes in substrate composition. Conditions for glucose influx into a minor pathway to an industrial precursor (2,3-butanediol) can thus be designed. Changes to intracellular pH can be followed concurrently, while mechanistic detail for the minor pathway can be derived using an intermediate-trapping-strategy. Overflow at the pyruvate level can be induced in non-engineered yeast with suitably mixed carbon sources (here glucose with auxiliary pyruvate), thus increasing glucose conversion to 2,3-butanediol by more than six hundred-fold. Such versatility suggests that a reassessment of canonical metabolism may be warranted using in-cell spectroscopy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number18
Pages (from-to)7262–7270
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Biotechnology
  • Carbon-carbon bond formation
  • In-cell NMR
  • Mechanism
  • Metabolism
  • Substrate mixtures
  • Whole-cell catalysis


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