Although strain tolerance to high product concentrations is a barrier to the economically viable biomanufacturing of industrial chemicals, chemical tolerance mechanisms are often unknown. To reveal tolerance mechanisms, an automated platform was utilized to evolve Escherichia coli to grow optimally in the presence of 11 industrial chemicals (1,2-propanediol, 2,3-butanediol, glutarate, adipate, putrescine, hexamethylenediamine, butanol, isobutyrate, coumarate, octanoate, hexanoate), reaching tolerance at concentrations 60%–400% higher than initial toxic levels. Sequencing genomes of 223 isolates from 89 populations, reverse engineering, and cross-compound tolerance profiling were employed to uncover tolerance mechanisms. We show that: 1) cells are tolerized via frequent mutation of membrane transporters or cell wall-associated proteins (e.g., ProV, KgtP, SapB, NagA, NagC, MreB), transcription and translation machineries (e.g., RpoA, RpoB, RpoC, RpsA, RpsG, NusA, Rho), stress signaling proteins (e.g., RelA, SspA, SpoT, YobF), and for certain chemicals, regulators and enzymes in metabolism (e.g., MetJ, NadR, GudD, PurT); 2) osmotic stress plays a significant role in tolerance when chemical concentrations exceed a general threshold and mutated genes frequently overlap with those enabling chemical tolerance in membrane transporters and cell wall-associated proteins; 3) tolerization to a specific chemical generally improves tolerance to structurally similar compounds whereas a tradeoff can occur on dissimilar chemicals, and 4) using pre-tolerized starting isolates can hugely enhance the subsequent production of chemicals when a production pathway is inserted in many, but not all, evolved tolerized host strains, underpinning the need for evolving multiple parallel populations. Taken as a whole, this study provides a comprehensive genotype-phenotype map based on identified mutations and growth phenotypes for 223 chemical tolerant isolates.
- Adaptive laboratory evolution
- Biochemical production
- Chemical tolerance