Melatonin is a commercially attractive tryptophan-derived hormone. Here we describe a bioprocess for the production of melatonin using Escherichia coli to high titers. The first engineered strain produced 0.13 g/L of melatonin from tryptophan under fed-batch fermentation conditions. A 4-fold improvement on melatonin titer was further achieved by (1) protein engineering of rate-limiting tryptophan hydroxylase to improve 5-hydroxytryptophan biosynthesis and (2) chromosomal integration of aromatic-amino-acid decarboxylase to limit byproduct formation and to minimize gene toxicity to the host cell. Fermentation optimization improved melatonin titer by an additional 2-fold. Deletion of yddG, a tryptophan exporter, exhibited an additive beneficial effect. The final engineered strain produced ∼2.0 g/L of melatonin with tryptophan supplemented externally and ∼1.0 g/L with glucose as the sole carbon source for tryptophan supply. This study lays the foundation for further developing a commercial melatonin-producing E. coli strain.
- E. coli
- High titer