High‐titer Bio‐Styrene Production Afforded by Whole‐cell Cascade Biotransformation

Hanan Messiha, Nigel Scrutton, David Leys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biosynthetic routes based on cost-efficient, eco-friendly, and sustainable platforms for compounds such as styrene are urgently needed. The biosynthesis of styrene from L-phenylalanine via trans-cinnamate has long been established, but styrene toxicity limits yields. We demonstrate that whole-cell cascade biotransformation employing an E. coli consortium expressing respectively phenylalanine ammonia-lyase and ferulic acid decarboxylase negates both the issue of styrene toxicity and the need for enzyme purification. Using resting or lyophilised cells, efficient conversion of L-Phe to styrene (up to ~24 g /L) is readily achieved and combined with robust extraction methods. The use of L-Phe enriched biomass with the E. coli consortium yields an equally robust and rapid production and isolation of renewable styrene. This study establishes an improved strategy for industrial bio-production of styrene, and by extension other toxic or reactive chemicals from corresponding bio-compatible precursors.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date4 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2023


  • styrene bio-production
  • whole-cell biotransformation
  • ferulic acid decarboxylase (Fdc)
  • phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL)


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