Exploiting Single Domain Antibodies as Regulatory Parts to Modulate Monoterpenoid Production in E. coli

Jonathan Wilkes, Anthony Scott-tucker, Mike Wright, Tom Crabbe, Nigel Scrutton

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Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering offer potentially green and attractive routes to the production of high value compounds. The provision of high-quality parts and pathways is crucial in enabling the biosynthesis of chemicals using synthetic biology. While a number of regulatory parts that provide control at the transcriptional and translational level have been developed, relatively few exist at the protein level. Single domain antibodies (sdAb) such as camelid heavy chain variable fragments (VHH) possess binding characteristics which could be exploited for their development and use as novel parts for regulating metabolic pathways at the protein level in microbial cell factories. Here, a platform for the use of VHH as tools in Escherichia coli is developed and subsequently used to modulate linalool production in E. coli. The coproduction of a Design of Experiments (DoE) optimized pBbE8k His6-VHHCyDisCo system alongside a heterologous linalool production pathway facilitated the identification of anti-bLinS VHH that functioned as modulators of bLinS. This resulted in altered product profiles and significant variation in the titers of linalool, geraniol, nerolidol, and indole obtained. The ability to alter the production levels of high value terpenoids, such as linalool, in a tunable manner at the protein level could represent a significant step forward for the development of improved microbial cell factories. This study serves as a proof of principle indicating that VHH can be used to modulate enzyme activity in engineered pathways within E. coli. Given their almost limitless binding potential, we posit that single domain antibodies could emerge as powerful regulatory parts in synthetic biology applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2828-2839
Number of pages12
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number10
Early online date23 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2020


  • design of experiments
  • enzyme modulators
  • monoterpenes
  • single domain antibodies
  • synthetic biology


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