Engineering nature for gaseous hydrocarbon production

Mohamed Amer, Helen Toogood, Nigel S. Scrutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of sustainable routes to the bio-manufacture of gaseous hydrocarbons will contribute widely to future energy needs. Their realisation would contribute towards minimising over-reliance on fossil fuels, improving air quality, reducing carbon footprints and enhancing overall energy security. Alkane gases (propane, butane and isobutane) are efficient and clean-burning fuels. They are established globally within the transportation industry and are used for domestic heating and cooking, non-greenhouse gas refrigerants and as aerosol propellants. As no natural biosynthetic routes to short chain alkanes have been discovered, de novo pathways have been engineered. These pathways incorporate one of two enzymes, either aldehyde deformylating oxygenase or fatty acid photodecarboxylase, to catalyse the final step that leads to gas formation. These new pathways are derived from established routes of fatty acid biosynthesis, reverse β-oxidation for butanol production, valine biosynthesis and amino acid degradation. Single-step production of alkane gases in vivo is also possible, where one recombinant biocatalyst can catalyse gas formation from exogenously supplied short-chain fatty acid precursors. This review explores current progress in bio-alkane gas production, and highlights the potential for implementation of scalable and sustainable commercial bioproduction hubs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number209
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020


  • Butane
  • Gaseous hydrocarbons
  • Isobutane
  • Pathway engineering
  • Propane
  • Synthetic biology

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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