Methods And Organisms For Growth-coupled Production Of 3-hydroxypropionic Acid

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METHODS AND ORGANISMS FOR GROWTH-COUPLED PRODUCTION OF 3-

HYDROXYPROPIONIC ACID

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to in silico design of organisms and, more specifically to organisms having selected genotypes for the growth-coupled production of 3- hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP).

The compound 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-hydroxypropionate or 3-HP) is a three-carbon carboxylic acid that has industrial potential as a building block for a number of commodity and specialty chemicals. Compounds that can be produced from 3-HP by chemical synthesis include polymer precursors such as acrylic acid, acrylamide, methyl acrylate, and 1,3- propanediol; chemical intermediates such as malonic acid, and a number alcohol esters of 3- HP. 3-HP itself also is used in the nutritional industry as a food preservative. Although the above compounds can be produced from petroleum feedstocks, the ability to produce the entire family of 3-HP derived products from a platform chemical, preferably made from renewable resources, would be useful. For these reasons, it is among the set of twelve compounds identified by the Department of Energy as highest priority for the development of bioprocesses out of over 300 evaluated candidates (DOE Report, "Top Value-Added Chemicals from Biomass", 2004).

Several chemical synthesis routes have been described to produce 3-HP, and biocatalytic routes have also been disclosed (WO 01/16346 to Suthers et al). However, chemical synthesis of 3-HP is costly and inefficient.

Despite the efforts and reports purporting the development of biocatalytic routes for the production of 3-HP, the approaches employed have several drawbacks which hinder applicability in commercial settings. As described further below, the stains produced by the above methods can be unstable in commercial fermentation processes due to selective pressures favoring the unaltered or wild-type parental counterparts.

Thus, there exists a need for microorganisms having commercially beneficial characteristics that can efficiently produce commercial quantities of 3-HP. Obligatory linking biosynthesis of a desired product to optimal growth conditions is a further need that would be commercially beneficial. The present invention satisfies these needs and provides related advantages as well.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides a non-naturally occurring microorganism having one or more gene disruptions, the one or more gene disruptions occurring in genes encoding an enzyme obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of the microorganism when the gene disruption reduces an activity of the enzyme, whereby the one or more gene disruptions confers stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid onto the non-naturally occurring microorganism. Also provided is a non-naturally occurring microorganism comprising a set of metabolic modifications obligatory coupling 3- hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of the microorganism, the set of metabolic modifications having disruption of one or more genes including: (a) the set of genes selected from: (1) adhE, ldhA, pta-ackA; (2) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD; (3) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, ptsG; (4) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, pntAB; (5) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, furnC; (6) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, fumC, pntAB; (7) pflAB, ldhA, or (8) adhE, ldhA, pgi in a microorganism utilizing an anaerobic β-alanine 3-HP precursor pathway; (b) the set of genes selected from: (1) tpi, zwf; (2) tpi, ybhE; (3) tpi, gnd; (4) fpb, gapA; (5) pgi, edd, or (6) pgi, eda in a microorganism utilizing an aerobic glycerol 3-HP precursor pathway; (c) the set of genes selected from: (1) eno; (2)yibO; (3) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (4)yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, in a microorganism utilizing a glycerate 3-HP precursor pathway, or an ortholog thereof, wherein the microorganism exhibits stable growth-coupled production of 3- hydroxypropionic acid. The disruptions can be complete gene disruptions and the non- naturally occurring organisms can include a variety of prokaryotic or eukaryotic microorganisms. A method of producing a non-naturally occurring microorganism having stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid is further provided. The method includes: (a) identifying in silico a set of metabolic modifications requiring 3- hydroxypropionic acid production during exponential growth, and (b) genetically modifying a microorganism to contain the set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-hydroxypropionic acid production. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 shows an estimated depiction of the tradeoff between biochemical production and cell growth. Points A and B represent the maximum biomass solution of the wild-type and mutant strains, respectively. Note that the mutant strain exhibits growth-coupled production.

Figure 2 shows a bilevel optimization structure of OptKnock. The inner problem performs the flux allocation based on the optimization of a particular cellular objective. The outer problem then maximizes the bioengineering objective (e.g., compound overproduction) by restricting access to key reactions available to the optimization of the inner problem.

Figure 3 shows a schematic diagram of 3-hydroxypropionic acid metabolism and routes for its biochemical synthesis.

Figure 4 shows metabolic pathways leading from glycolytic intermediates to 3- hydroxypropionic acid. The production routes through β-alanine, glycerol and glycerate are differentiated by thicker lines.

Figure 5 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for various OptKnock-derived mutant strains (A: designs #1-4, B: designs #5-6) compared to the wild-type under anaerobic conditions. A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non-growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations.

Figure 6 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for various OptKnock-derived mutant strains (designs #7-10) compared to the wild-type under anaerobic conditions. A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non-growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations.

Figure 7 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for various OptKnock-derived mutant strains (designs #11-13) compared to the wild-type under anaerobic conditions. A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non-growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations.

Figure 8 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for various OptKnock-derived mutant strains (designs #14-16) compared to the wild-type under anaerobic conditions. A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non-growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations. The abbreviation GLYCt signifies that this solution boundary was calculated after constraining glycerol production to be zero.

Figure 9 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for design #17 under conditions where the flux through glyceraldehyde-3 -phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPD) can be limited. A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non-growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations.

Figure 10 shows the 3-HP versus growth rate boundaries for designs #2 and #18-20 under either (A) anaerobic or (B) aerobic conditions where the glycerate pathway to 3-HP is allowed to be active in E. coli, A basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr and a non- growth associated ATP requirement of 7.6 mmol/gDW/hr were used for these simulations.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

This invention is directed to the design and production of cells and organisms having growth- coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP). In one embodiment, the invention utilizes optimization-based approaches based on in silico stoichiometric models of

Escherichia coli metabolism that identify metabolic designs for optimal production of 3- hydroxypropionic acid. A bilevel programming framework, OptKnock, is applied within an iterative algorithm to predict multiple sets of gene disruptions, that collectively result in the growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid. The results described herein indicate that combinations of strategically placed gene deletions or functional disruptions of genes significantly improves the 3-hydroxypropionic acid production capabilities of Escherichia coli and other cells or organisms. Growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid for the in silico designs are confirmed by construction of strains having the designed metabolic genotype. These metabolically engineered cells or organisms also can be subjected to adaptive evolution to further augment growth-coupled 3-hydroxypropionic acid production, including under conditions approaching theoretical maximum growth.

In certain embodiments, deletions were placed such that the redundancy in the network was reduced with the ultimate effect of coupling growth to the production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid in the network. Further, the growth-coupled 3-hydroxypropionic acid production characteristics of the designed strains make them genetically stable and particularly useful in continuous bioprocesses. Separate strain design strategies were identified with incorporation of different non-native reaction capabilities into E. coli leading to 3-hydroxypropionic acid producing metabolic pathways from either β-alanine, glycerol or glycerate. Hundreds of in silico metabolic designs were identified that increased the production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid. The top 20 designs were selected for further characterization. One observed characteristic in many of the 3-hydroxypropionic acid producing strain designs resulted from manipulation the cofactor availability in the network.

In a further embodiment, the invention is directed to an integrated computational and engineering platform for developing metabolically altered microorganism strains having enhanced 3-hydroxypropionic acid producing characteristics. Strains identified via the computational component of the platform are put into actual production by genetically engineering the predicted metabolic alterations which lead to the enhanced production of 3- hydroxypropionic acid. Production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid is coupled to optimal growth of the microorganism to optimize yields of this product during fermentation, hi yet a further embodiment, strains exhibiting growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid are further subjected to adaptive evolution to further augment product biosynthesis. The levels of growth-coupled 3-hydroxypropionic acid production following adaptive evolution also can be predicted by the computational component of the system where, in this specific embodiment, the elevated 3-hydroxypropionic acid levels are realized only following evolution.

As used herein, the term "non-natural Iy occurring" when used in reference to a microorganism of the invention is intended to mean that the microorganism has at least one genetic alteration not normally found in a wild-type strain of the referenced species. The genetic alteration can be a gene deletion or some other functional disruption of the genetic material.

As used herein, the term "microorganism" is intended to mean a prokaryotic or eukaryotic cell or organism having a microscopic size. The term is intended to include bacteria of all species and eukaryotic organisms such as yeast and fungi. The term also includes cell cultures of any species that can be cultured for the production of a biochemical. As used herein, the term "growth-coupled" when used in reference to the production of a biochemical is intended to mean that the biosynthesis of the referenced biochemical is an obligatory product produced during the growth phase of a microorganism.

As used herein, the term "metabolic modification" is intended to refer to a biochemical reaction that is altered from its naturally occurring state. Metabolic modifications can include, for example, elimination of a biochemical reaction activity by functional disruptions of one or more genes encoding an enzyme participating in the reaction. Sets of exemplary metabolic modification are illustrated in Table 2. Reactants and products utilized in these reactions are exemplified in Table 3.

As used herein, the term "3-hydroxypropionic acid" or "3-HP" is intended to mean the carboxylic acid C3H6O3 having a molecular mass of 90.08 g/mol and a pKa of 4.5. It also is known in the art as hydracrylic acid and ethylene lactic acid. The term "3-hydroxypropionic acid" as it is used herein is intended to include any of its various 3-hydroxypropionate salt forms. Chemically, 3-hydroxyproprionate corresponds to a salt or ester of 3- hydroxypropionic acid. Therefore, 3-hydroxypropionic acid and 3-hydroxypropionate refer to the same compound, which can be present in either of the two forms depending on the pH of the solution. Therefore, the terms 3-hydroxypropionic acid, 3-hydroxypropionate and 3- HP as well as its other art recognized names hydracrylic acid and ethylene lactic acid are used synonymously herein.

As used herein, the term "gene disruption," or grammatical equivalents thereof, is intended to mean a genetic alteration that renders the encoded gene product inactive. The genetic alteration can be, for example, deletion of the entire gene, deletion of a regulatory sequence required for transcription or translation, deletion of a portion of the gene with results in a truncated gene product or by any of various mutation strategies that inactivate the encoded gene product. One particularly useful method of gene disruption is complete gene deletion because it reduces or eliminates the occurrence of genetic reversions in the non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention.

As used herein, the term "stable" when used in reference to growth-coupled production of a biochemical product is intended to refer to microorganism that can be cultured for greater than five generations without loss of the coupling between growth and biochemical synthesis. Generally, stable growth-coupled biochemical production will be greater than 10 generations, particularly stable growth-coupled biochemical production will be greater than about 25 generations, and more particularly, stable growth-coupled biochemical production will be greater than 50 generations, including indefinitely. Stable growth-coupled production of a biochemical can be achieved, for example, by deletion of a gene encoding an enzyme catalyzing each reaction within a set of metabolic modifications. The stability of growth- coupled production of a biochemical can be enhanced through multiple deletions, significantly reducing the likelihood of multiple compensatory reversions occurring for each disrupted activity.

Those skilled in the art will understand that the metabolic modifications exemplified herein are described with reference to E. coli genes and their corresponding metabolic reactions. However, given the complete genome sequencing of a wide variety of organisms and the high level of skill in the area of genomics, those skilled in the art will readily be able to apply the teachings and guidance provided herein to essentially all other organisms. For example, the E. coli metabolic alterations exemplified herein can readily be applied to other species by incorporating the same or analogous gene disruptions in the other species. Such disruptions can include, for example, genetic alterations of species homologs, in general, and in particular, orthologs, paralogs or nonorthologous gene displacements.

An ortholog is a gene or genes that are related by vertical descent and are responsible for substantially the same or identical functions in different organisms. For example, mouse epoxide hydrolase and human epoxide hydrolase can be considered orthologs for the biological function of hydrolysis of epoxides. Genes are related by vertical descent when, for example, they share sequence similarity of sufficient amount to indicate they are homologous, or related by evolution from a common ancestor. Genes can also be considered orthologs if they share three-dimensional structure but not necessarily sequence similarity, of a sufficient amount to indicate that they have evolved from a common ancestor to the extent that the primary sequence similarity is not identifiable. Genes that are orthologous can encode proteins with sequence similarity of about 25% to 100% amino acid sequence identity. Genes encoding proteins sharing an amino acid similarity less that 25% can also be considered to have arisen by vertical descent if their three-dimensional structure also shows similarities. Members of the serine protease family of enzymes, including tissue plasminogen activator and elastase, are considered to have arisen by vertical descent from a common ancestor.

Orthologs include genes or their encoded gene products that through, for example, evolution, have diverged in structure or overall activity. For example, where one species encodes a gene product exhibiting two functions and where such functions have been separated into distinct genes in a second species, the three genes and their corresponding products are considered to be orthologs. For the growth-coupled production of a biochemical product, those skilled in the art will understand that the orthologous gene harboring the metabolic activity to be disrupted is to be chosen for construction of the non-naturally occurring microorganism. An example of orthologs exhibiting separable activities is where distinct activities have been separated into distinct gene products between two or more species or within a single species. A specific example is the separation of elastase proteolysis and plasminogen proteolysis, two types of serine protease activity, into distinct molecules as plasminogen activator and elastase. A second example is the separation of mycoplasma 5'-3' exonuclease and Drosophila DNA polymerase III activity. The DNA polymerase from the first species can be considered an ortholog to either or both of the exonuclease or the polymerase from the second species and vice versa.

In contrast, paralogs are homologs related by, for example, duplication followed by evolutionary divergence and have similar or common, but not identical functions. Paralogs can originate or derive from, for example, the same species or from a different species. For example, microsomal epoxide hydrolase (epoxide hydrolase I) and soluble epoxide hydrolase (epoxide hydrolase II) can be considered paralogs because they represent two distinct enzymes, co-evolved from a common ancestor, that catalyze distinct reactions and have distinct functions in the same species. Paralogs are proteins from the same species with significant sequence similarity to each other suggesting that they are homologous, or related through co-evolution from a common ancestor. Groups of paralogous protein families include HipA homologs, luciferase genes, peptidases, and others.

A nonorthologous gene displacement is a nonorthologous gene from one species that can substitute for a referenced gene function in a different species. Substitution includes, for example, being able to perform substantially the same or a similar function in the species of origin compared to the referenced function in the different species. Although generally, a nonorthologous gene displacement will be identifiable as structurally related to a known gene encoding the referenced function, less structurally related but functionally similar genes and their corresponding gene products nevertheless will still fall within the meaning of the term as it is used herein. Functional similarity requires, for example, at least some structural similarity in the active site or binding region of a nonorthologous gene compared to a gene encoding the function sought to be substituted. Therefore, a nonorthologous gene includes, for example, a paralog or an unrelated gene.

Therefore, in identifying and constructing the non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention having growth-coupled production of a biochemical, those skilled in the art will understand with applying the teaching and guidance provided herein to a particular species that the identification of metabolic modifications should include identification and disruption of orthologs. To the extent that paralogs and/or nonorthologous gene displacements are present in the referenced microorganism that encode an enzyme catalyzing a similar or substantially similar metabolic reaction, those skilled in the art also can eliminate these evolutionally related genes to ensure that any functional redundancy in enzymatic activities do not short circuit the designed metabolic modifications.

Orthologs, paralogs and nonorthologous gene displacements can be determined by methods well known to those skilled in the art. For example, inspection of nucleic acid or amino acid sequences for two polypeptides will reveal sequence identity and similarities between the compared sequences. Based on such similarities, one skilled in the art can determine if the similarity is sufficiently high to indicate the proteins are related through evolution from a common ancestor. Algorithms well known to those skilled in the art, such as Align, BLAST, Clustal W and others compared and determine a raw sequence similarity or identity, and also determine the presence or significance of gaps in the sequence which can be assigned a weight or score. Such algorithms also are known in the art and are similarly applicable for determining nucleotide sequence similarity or identity. Parameters for sufficient similarly to determine relatedness are computed based on well known methods for calculating statistical similarity, or the chance of finding a similar match in a random polypeptide, and the significance of the match determined. A computer comparison of two or more sequences can, if desired, also be optimized visually by those skilled in the art. Related gene products or proteins can be expected to have a high similarity, for example, 25% to 100% sequence identity. Proteins that are unrelated can have an identity which is essentially the same as would be expected to occur by chance, if a database of sufficient size is scanned (about 5%). Sequences between 5% and 24% may or may not represent sufficient homology to conclude that the compared sequences are related. Additional statistical analysis to determine the significance of such matches given the size of the data set can be carried out to determine the relevance of these sequences.

Exemplary parameters for determining relatedness of two or more sequences using the BLAST algorithm, for example, can be as set forth below. Briefly, amino acid sequence alignments can be performed using BLASTP version 2.0.8 (Jan-05-1999) and the following parameters: Matrix: 0 BLOSUM62; gap open: 11; gap extension: 1; x dropoff: 50; expect: 10.0; wordsize: 3; filter: on. Nucleic acid sequence alignments can be performed using BLASTN version 2.0.6 (Sept- 16- 1998) and the following parameters: Match: 1; mismatch: -2; gap open: 5; gap extension: 2; x dropoff: 50; expect: 10.0; wordsize: 11; filter: off. Those skilled in the art will know what modifications can be made to the above parameters to either increase or decrease the stringency of the comparison, for example, and determine the relatedness of two or more sequences.

The invention provides a method of producing a non-naturally occurring microorganism having stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid. The method includes: (a) identifying in silico a set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-hydroxypropionic acid production during exponential growth, and (b) genetically modifying a microorganism to contain said set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-hydroxypropionic acid production.

An important consideration for bioprocessing is whether to use a batch or continuous fermentation scheme. One difference between the two schemes that will influence the amount of product produced is the presence of a preparation, lag, and stationary phase for the batch scheme in addition to the exponential growth phase. In contrast, continuous processes are kept in a state of constant exponential growth and, if properly operated, can run for many months at a time. For growth-associated and mixed-growth-associated product formation, continuous processes provide much higher productivities (i.e., dilution rate times cell mass) due to the elimination of the preparation, lag, and stationary phases. For example, given the following reasonable assumptions: Monod kinetics (i.e., μ = μm-S/(Ks+S) )

/^l.O hf1 final cell concentration/initial cell concentration = 20 tprep ~^~ Uag ~*~ htal ~ 5 nF feed concentration of limiting nutrient » Ks increased productivity from a continuous process has been estimated at 8-fold, Shuler et al, Prentice Hall, Inc.: Upper Saddle River, NJ., 245-247.

Despite the overwhelming advantage in productivity, many more batch processes are in operation than continuous processes for a number of reasons. First, for non-growth associated product formation (e.g., penicillin), the productivity of a batch system may significantly exceed that of a continuous process because the latter would have to operate at very low dilution rates. Next, production strains generally have undergone modifications to their genetic material to improve their biochemical or protein production capabilities. These specialized strains are likely to grow less rapidly than their parental complements whereas continuous processes such those employing chemostats (fermenters operated in continuous mode) impose large selection pressures for the fastest growing cells. Cells containing recombinant DNA or carrying point mutations leading to the desired overproduction phenotype are susceptible to back-mutation into the original less productive parental strain. It also is possible for strains having single gene deletions to develop compensatory mutations that will tend to restore the wild-type growth phenotype. The faster growing cells usually out-compete their more productive counterparts for limiting nutrients, drastically reducing productivity. Batch processes, on the other hand, limit the number of generations available by not reusing cells at the end of each cycle, thus decreasing the probability of the production strain reverting back to its wild-type phenotype. Finally, continuous processes are more difficult to operate long-term due to potential engineering obstacles such as equipment failure and foreign organism contamination. The consequences of such failures also are much more considerable for a continuous process than with a batch culture.

For small-volume production of specially chemicals and/or proteins, the productivity increases of continuous processes rarely outweigh the risks associated with strain stability and reliability. However, for the production of large-volume, growth-associated products such as 3-hydroxypropionic acid, the increases in productivity for a continuous process can result in significant economic gains when compared to a batch process. Although the engineering obstacles associated with continuous bioprocess operation would always be present, the strain stability concerns can be overcome through metabolic engineering strategies that reroute metabolic pathways to reduce or avoid negative selective pressures and favor production of the target product during the exponential growth phase.

One computational method for identifying and designing metabolic alterations favoring growth-coupled production of a product is the OptKnock computational framework, Burgard et al., Biotechnol Bioeng, 84: 647-57 (2003). OptKnock is a metabolic modeling and simulation program that suggests gene deletion strategies that result in genetically stable microorganisms which overproduce the target product. Specifically, the framework examines the complete metabolic and/or biochemical network of a microorganism in order to suggest genetic manipulations that force the desired biochemical to become an obligatory byproduct of cell growth. By coupling biochemical production with cell growth through strategically placed gene deletions or other functional gene disruption, the growth selection pressures imposed on the engineered strains after long periods of time in a bioreactor lead to improvements in performance as a result of the compulsory growth-coupled biochemical production. Lastly, when gene deletions are constructed there is a negligible possibility of the designed strains reverting to their wild-type states because the genes selected by OptKnock are to be completely removed from the genome.

Briefly, OptKnock is a term used herein to refer to a computational method and system for modeling cellular metabolism. The OptKnock program relates to a framework of models and methods that incorporate particular constraints into flux balance analysis (FBA) models. These constraints include, for example, qualitative kinetic information, qualitative regulatory information, and/or DNA microarray experimental data. OptKnock also computes solutions to various metabolic problems by, for example, tightening the flux boundaries derived through flux balance models and subsequently probing the performance limits of metabolic networks in the presence of gene additions or deletions. OptKnock computational framework allows the construction of model formulations that enable an effective query of the performance limits of metabolic networks and provides methods for solving the resulting mixed-integer linear programming problems. The metabolic modeling and simulation methods referred to herein as OptKnock are described in, for example, U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 10/043,440, filed January 10, 2002, and in International Patent No. PCT/US02/00660, filed January 10, 2002.

Another computational method for identifying and designing metabolic alterations favoring growth-coupled production of a product is metabolic modeling and simulation system termed SimPheny®. This computational method and system is described in, for example, U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 10/173,547, filed June 14, 2002, and in International Patent Application No. PCT/US03/18838, filed June 13, 2003.

SimPheny® is a computational system that can be used to produce a network model in silico and to simulate the flux of mass, energy or charge through the chemical reactions of a biological system to define a solution space that contains any and all possible functionalities of the chemical reactions in the system, thereby determining a range of allowed activities for the biological system. This approach is referred to as constraints-based modeling because the solution space is defined by constraints such as the known stoichiometry of the included reactions as well as reaction thermodynamic and capacity constraints associated with maximum fluxes through reactions. The space defined by these constraints can be interrogated to determine the phenotypic capabilities and behavior of the biological system or of its biochemical components. Analysis methods such as convex analysis, linear programming and the calculation of extreme pathways as described, for example, in Schilling et al., J. Theor. Biol. 203:229-248 (2000); Schilling et al., Biotech. Bioeng. 71:286-306 (2000) and Schilling et al., Biotech. Prog. 15:288-295 (1999), can be used to determine such phenotypic capabilities.

As described above, one constraints-based method used in the computational programs applicable to the invention is flux balance analysis. Flux balance analysis is based on flux balancing in a steady state condition and can be performed as described in, for example, Varma and Palsson, Biotech. Bioeng. 12:994-998 (1994). Flux balance approaches have been applied to reaction networks to simulate or predict systemic properties of, for example, adipocyte metabolism as described in Fell and Small, J. Biochem. 138:781-786 (1986), acetate secretion from E. coli under ATP maximization conditions as described in Majewski and Domach, Biotech. Bioeng. 35:732-738 (1990) or ethanol secretion by yeast as described in Vanrolleghem et al., Biotech. Prog. 12:434-448 (1996). Additionally, this approach can be used to predict or simulate the growth of is. coli on a variety of single-carbon sources as well as the metabolism of H. influenzae as described in Edwards and Palsson, Proc, Natl. Acad. ScL 97:5528-5533 (2000), Edwards and Palsson, J. Bio. Chem. 274:17410-17416 (1999) and Edwards et al., Nature Biotech. 19:125-130 (2001).

Once the solution space has been defined, it can be analyzed to determine possible solutions under various conditions. This computational approach is consistent with biological realities because biological systems are flexible and can reach the same result in many different ways. Biological systems are designed through evolutionary mechanisms that have been restricted by fundamental constraints that all living systems must face. Therefore, constraints-based modeling strategy embraces these general realities. Further, the ability to continuously impose further restrictions on a network model via the tightening of constraints results in a reduction in the size of the solution space, thereby enhancing the precision with which physiological performance or phenotype can be predicted.

Given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art will be able to apply various computational frameworks for metabolic modeling and simulation to design and implement growth-coupled production of a biochemical product. Such metabolic modeling and simulation methods include, for example, the computational systems exemplified above as SimPheny® and OptKnock. For simplicity in illustrating the invention, the methods and strains will be described herein with reference to the OptKnock computation framework for modeling and simulation. Those skilled in the art will know how to apply the identification, design and implementation of the metabolic alterations using OptKnock to any of such other metabolic modeling and simulation computational frameworks and methods well known in the art.

The ability of a cell or organism to obligatory couple growth to the production of a biochemical product can be illustrated in the context of the biochemical production limits of a typical metabolic network calculated using an in silico model. These limits are obtained by fixing the uptake rate(s) of the limiting substrate(s) to their experimentally measured value(s) and calculating the maximum and minimum rates of biochemical production at each attainable level of growth. As shown in Figure 1, the production of a desired biochemical generally is in direct competition with biomass formation for intracellular resources. Under these circumstances, enhanced rates of biochemical production will necessarily result in sub- maximal growth rates. The knockouts suggested by the above metabolic modeling and simulation programs such as OptKnock are designed to restrict the allowable solution boundaries forcing a change in metabolic behavior from the wild-type strain as depicted in Figure 1. Although the actual solution boundaries for a given strain will expand or contract as the substrate uptake rate(s) increase or decrease, each experimental point will lie within its calculated solution boundary. Plots such as these enable accurate predictions of how close the designed strains are to their performance limits which also indicates how much room is available for improvement.

The OptKnock mathematical framework is exemplified herein for pinpointing gene deletions leading to growth-coupled biochemical production as illustrated in Figure 1. The procedure builds upon constraint-based metabolic modeling which narrows the range of possible phenotypes that a cellular system can display through the successive imposition of governing physico-chemical constraints, Price et al., Nat Rev Microbiol, 2: 886-97 (2004). As described above, constraint-based models and simulations are well known in the art and generally invoke the optimization of a particular cellular objective, subject to network stoichiometry, to suggest a likely flux distribution.

Briefly, the maximization of a cellular objective quantified as an aggregate reaction flux for a steady state metabolic network comprising a set N = { 1,..., N) of metabolites and a set M = { 1,..., M) of metabolic reactions is expressed mathematically as follows:

maximize vcellular objecme

M subject to ∑5^, = 0 > V / e Ν

J=I

Vsubs,rate = v subslrale _ uplake mmol/gDW-hr

V / e {limiting substrate(s)}

Vaφ ≥ Vatpjnam mmol/gDW-hr

Vj ≥ 0, V j e {irrev. reactions} where StJ is the stoichiometric coefficient of metabolite / in reaction j, y, is the flux of reaction^, vsubStrate_uPtake represents the assumed or measured uptake rate(s) of the limiting substrate(s), and vatp_mam is the non-growth associated ATP maintenance requirement. The vector v includes both internal and external fluxes. In this study, the cellular objective is often assumed to be a drain of biosynthetic precursors in the ratios required for biomass formation, Neidhardt, F.C. et al., 2nd ed. 1996, Washington, D.C.: ASM Press. 2 v. (xx, 2822, lxxvi ). The fluxes are generally reported per 1 gDWhr (gram of dry weight times hour) such that biomass formation is expressed as g biomass produced/ gDWhr or 1/hr.

The modeling of gene deletions, and thus reaction elimination, first employs the incorporation of binary variables into the constraint-based approach framework, Burgard et al., Biotechnol Bioeng, 74: 364-375 (2001), Burgard et al., Biotechnol Prog, 17: 791-797 (2001). These binary variables,

(I, if reaction flux V7 is active 0, if reaction flux v^ is not active ' assume a value of 1 if reaction j is active and a value of 0 if it is inactive. The following constraint,

v™ . yjVj ≤ v™ - yj, V y e M ensures that reaction flux v, is set to zero only if variable j/7 is equal to zero. Alternatively, when>>y is equal to one, v, is free to assume any value between a lower v,1""1 and an upper vf"" bound. Here, vf" and v/"" are identified by minimizing and maximizing, respectively, every reaction flux subject to the network constraints described above, Mahadevan et al., Metab Eng, 5: 264-76 (2003).

Optimal gene/reaction knockouts are identified by solving a bilevel optimization problem that chooses the set of active reactions (y, = 1) such that an optimal growth solution for the resulting network overproduces the chemical of interest. Schematically, this bilevel optimization problem is illustrated in Figure 2. Mathematically, this bilevel optimization problem is expressed as the following bilevel mixed-integer optimization problem:

maximize vChemιcai (OptKnock) yj V Z e N

V substrate uptake main v, . > v'arSel vbιomass ^- vbtomass

^""" ^ ≤ v, ≤ v™ - j/, , V y e M

∑(i -yj) = κ

J6M 1

J7 e {0,1 }, V y e M

where vChemicai is the production of the desired target product, for example 3-hydroxypropionic acid or other biochemical product, and K is the number of allowable knockouts. Note that setting K equal to zero returns the maximum biomass solution of the complete network, while setting K equal to one identifies the single gene/reaction knockout (y7 = 0) such that the resulting network involves the maximum overproduction given its maximum biomass yield. The final constraint ensures that the resulting network meets a minimum biomass yield. Burgard et al., Biotechnol Bioeng, 84: 647-57 (2003), provide a more detailed description of the model formulation and solution procedure. Problems containing hundreds of binary variables can be solved in the order of minutes to hours using CPLEX 8.0, GAMS: The Solver Manuals. 2003: GAMS Development Corporation, accessed via the GAMS, Brooke et al., GAMS Development Corporation (1998), modeling environment on an IBM RS6000-270 workstation. The OptKnock framework has already been able to identify promising gene deletion strategies for biochemical overproduction, Burgard et al., Biotechnol Bioeng, 84: 647-57 (2003), Pharkya et al., Biotechnol Bioeng, 84: 887-899 (2003), and establishes a systematic framework that will naturally encompass future improvements in metabolic and regulatory modeling frameworks. Any solution of the above described bilevel OptKnock problem will provide one set of metabolic reactions to disrupt. Elimination of each reaction within the set or metabolic modification can result in 3-hydroxypropionic acid as an obligatory product during the growth phase of the organism. Because the reactions are known, a solution to the bilevel OptKnock problem also will provide the associated gene or genes encoding one or more enzymes that catalyze each reaction within the set of reactions. Identification of a set of reactions and their corresponding genes encoding the enzymes participating in each reaction is generally an automated process, accomplished through correlation of the reactions with a reaction database having a relationship between enzymes and encoding genes.

Once identified, the set of reactions that are to be disrupted in order to achieve growth- coupled 3-hydroxypropionic acid production are implemented in the target cell or organism by functional disruption of at least one gene encoding each metabolic reaction within the set. As described previously, one particularly useful means to achieve functional disruption of the reaction set is by deletion of each encoding gene. However, in some instances, it can be beneficial to disrupt the reaction by other genetic aberrations including, for example, mutation, deletion of regulatory regions such as promoters or cis binding sites for regulatory factors, or by truncation of the coding sequence at any of a number of locations. These latter aberrations, resulting in less than total deletion of the gene set can be useful, for example, when rapid assessments of the product coupling are desired or when genetic reversion is less likely to occur.

To identify additional productive solutions to the above described bilevel OptKnock problem which lead to further sets of reactions to disrupt or metabolic modifications that can result in the growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid or other biochemical products, an optimization method, termed integer cuts, can be implemented. This method proceeds by iteratively solving the OptKnock problem exemplified above with the incorporation of an additional constraint referred to as an integer cut at each iteration. Integer cut constraints effectively prevent the solution procedure from choosing the exact same set of reactions identified in any previous iteration that obligatory couples product biosynthesis to growth. For example, if a previously identified growth-coupled metabolic modification specifies reactions 1, 2, and 3 for disruption, then the following constraint prevents the same reactions from being simultaneously consideredϊn subsequent solutions: yi +y2 +y>3 ≥ 1. The integer cut method is well known in the art and can be found described in, for example, reference, Burgard et al., Biotechnol Prog, 17: 791-797 (2001). As with all methods described herein with reference to their use in combination with the OptKnock computational framework for metabolic modeling and simulation, the integer cut method of reducing redundancy in iterative computational analysis also can be applied with other computational frameworks well known in the art including, for example, SimPheny.

Constraints of the above form preclude identification of larger reaction sets that include previously identified sets. For example, employing the integer cut optimization method above in a further iteration would preclude identifying a quadruple reaction set that specified reactions 1, 2, and 3 for disruption since these reactions had been previously identified. To ensure identification of all possible reaction sets leading to growth-coupled production of a product, a modification of the integer cut method was employed.

Briefly, the modified integer cut procedure begins with iteration 'zero' which calculates the maximum production of the desired biochemical at optimal growth for a wild-type network. This calculation corresponds to an OptKnock solution with K equaling 0. Next, single knockouts are considered and the two parameter sets, objstorelter and ystorelterj , are introduced to store the objective function (vc/,em,cα/) and reaction on-off information (y;), respectively, at each iteration, iter. The following constraints are then successively added to the OptKnock formulation at each iteration.

vchem,ca /≥ objstoreller + ε - M - ∑jeysιore^ ^y,

In the above equation, ε and Mare a small and a large numbers, respectively. In general, ε can be set at about 0.01 and Mean be set at about 1000. However, numbers smaller and/or larger then these numbers also can be used. M ensures that the constraint can be binding only for previously identified knockout strategies, while ε ensures that adding knockouts to a previously identified strategy must lead to an increase of at least ε in biochemical production at optimal growth. The approach moves onto double deletions whenever a single deletion strategy fails to improve upon the wild-type strain. Triple deletions are then considered when no double deletion strategy improves upon the wild-type strain, and so on. The end result is a ranked list, represented as desired biochemical production at optimal growth, of distinct deletion strategies that differ from each other by at least one knockout. This optimization procedure as well as the identification of a wide variety of reaction sets that, when disrupted, lead to the growth-coupled production of a biochemical product are exemplified in detail further below in the Examples. The Examples further exemplify the growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid. However, given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art will understand that the methods and metabolic engineering designs exemplified herein are equally applicable to the obligatory coupling of cell or microorganism growth to any biochemical product.

Biochemical synthesis of 3-HP has been established, and several routes can be found in the propanoate metabolism map in the KEGG pathway database shown in Figure 3 and found at the URL genome.jp/dbget-bin/show_pathway?map00640. However, complete pathways are not present in certain industrial microbes such as E. coli or S. cerevisiae'. One useful E. coli well known in the art can produce 3-HP by fermentation via lactic acid is a strain recombinantly expressing lactyl-CoA dehydratase and 3-hydroxypropionyl-CoA dehydratase. This strain is described in U.S. Patent Application 20040076982. A more energetically favorable route is the synthesis of 3-HP from malonic semialdehyde, via the intermediate β- alanine. However, the synthesis route for β-alanine is extensive and has the same energetic barrier as the lactic pathway. A further alternative well known in the art is through expression of a 2,3-aminomutase enzyme which converts L-alanine to β-alanine. Expression of this aminomutase creates a pathway from pyruvate to 3-HP in 4 biochemical steps and is described in U.S. Patent Application 20050221466) A 2-step recombinant pathway for creating 3-HP producing microorganisms from glycerol is described in U.S. Patent 6,852,517.

These and other microorganisms known in the art expressing 3-HP or engineered to express 3-HP can be employed in the methods of the invention or used to derive the non -naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention. Similarly, microorganisms other than E. coli also can be recombinantly engineered to contain substantially the same or similar exogenous pathways so as to express 3-HP for use in the methods of the invention or for deriving a non- naturally occurring microorganism of the invention. Further, in addition to the engineered pathways exemplified in the above publications, any of a variety of other metabolic alternatives can be recombinantly engineered into a microorganism of choice to convert a non-producing 3-HP microorganism into a 3-HP producing microorganism. Such other metabolic alternatives include, for example, introducing metabolic pathways that produce any of the 3 -HP precursors shown in Figure 3. Exemplary metabolic alternatives include, for example, engineering exogenous pathways for β-alanine, malonyl-CoA and lactoyl-CoA shown in Figures 3 and 4 to produce malonate semialdehyde, malonate semialdehyde and 3- hydroxypropanoyl-CoA, respectively, in a microorganism that produces little, if any, of these 3-HP precursors.

Employing the methods exemplified above and further illustrated in the Examples below, the methods of the invention enable the construction of cells and organisms that obligatory couple the production of a target biochemical product to growth of the cell or organism engineered to harbor the identified genetic alterations. In this regard, metabolic alterations have been identified that obligatory couple the production of 3-HP to microorganism growth. Microorganism or microbial strains constructed with the identified metabolic alterations produce elevated levels of 3-HP during the exponential growth phase. These strains can be beneficially used for the commercial production of 3-HP in continuous fermentation process without being subjected to the negative selective pressures described previously.

Therefore, the methods of the invention provide a set of metabolic modifications that are identified by an in silico method selected from OptKnock or SimPheny. The set of metabolic modifications can include functional disruption of one or more metabolic reactions including, for example, disruption by gene deletion. The metabolic modifications can be selected from the set of metabolic modifications listed in Table 2.

Also provided is a method of producing a non-naturally occurring microorganism having stable growth-coupled production of 3-HP. The method includes: (a) identifying in silico a set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-HP production during exponential growth; (b) genetically modifying a microorganism to contain the set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-HP production, and culturing the genetically modified microorganism. Culturing can include adaptively evolving the genetically modified microorganism under conditions requiring 3-HP production. The methods of the invention are applicable to bacterium, yeast and fungus as well as a variety of other cells and microorganism. The bacteria can include, for example, E. coli, A. succiniciproducens, A. succinogenes, M. succiniciproducens, R. etli, Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Gluconobacter oxydans, Zymomonas mobilis, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptomyces coelicolor, Clostridium acetobutylicum, P seudomonas fluoresceins Klebsiella oxytoca and Pseudomonas putida. Yeast can include, for example, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Penicilium chrysogenum, Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus niger and Pichiapastoris.

A microorganism produced by the methods of the invention is further provided. Therefore, the invention provides non-naturally occurring microorganism having one or more gene disruptions occurring in genes encoding an enzyme obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of the microorganism when the gene disruption reduces an activity of said enzyme, whereby the one or more gene disruptions confers stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid onto the non-naturally occurring microorganism.

The non-naturally occurring microorganism can have one or more gene disruptions included in a metabolic modification listed in Table 2. The one or more gene disruptions can be a deletion. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of the invention can be selected from the group of microorganisms having a metabolic modification listed in Table 2. Specific examples of the non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention are set forth below in Example I. Non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention include bacteria, yeast, fungus or any of a variety of other microorganisms applicable to fermentation processes. Exemplary bacteria include species selected from E. coli, A. succiniciproducens, A. succinogenes, M. succiniciproducens, R. etli, Bacillus subtilis, Coryne bacterium glutamicum, Gluconobacter oxydans, Zymomonas mobilis, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptomyces coelicolor, Clostridium acetobutylicum, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Klebsiella oxytoca and Pseudomonas putida. Exemplary yeasts include species selected from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Penicilium chrysogenum, Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus niger and Pichia pastoris.

The microorganisms having growth-coupled 3-HP production are exemplified herein with reference to an E. coli genetic background. However, with the complete genome sequence available for now more than 550 species (with more than half of these available on public databases such as the NCBl), including 395 microorganism genomes and a variety of yeast, fungi, plant, and mammalian genomes, the identification of an alternate species homolog for one or more genes, including for example, orthologs, paralogs and nonorthologous gene displacements, and the interchange of genetic alterations between organisms is routine and well known in the art. Accordingly, the metabolic alterations enabling growth-coupled production of 3-HP described herein with reference to a particular organism such as E. coli can be readily applied to other microorganisms, including prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms alike. Given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art will know that a metabolic alteration exemplified in one organism can be applied equally to other organisms.

For example, 3-HP production can be coupled to exponential growth in E. coli by deletion or functional removal of one or more genes encoding enzymes catalyzing the reaction referred to herein as LDH D. As shown in Table 2, there are two E. coli genes that encode an enzyme catalyzing the LDH D reaction. These two LDH D associated genes are ldhA and did. The common name for the enzyme encoding the LDH_D reaction is ldhA. The did gene is an ortholog of ldhA. To produce a metabolically engineered E. coli exhibiting growth coupled 3-HP production employing diminution or removal of the LDH D reaction, a gene encoding at least one enzyme catalyzing the LDH D reaction has to be functionally disrupted. Such a disruption can occur, for example, by deleting either or both of the ldhA gene and/or its ortholog did. For the growth-coupled production of 3-HP employing diminution or removal of the LDH D reaction in a cell or organism other then E. coli, the genes encoding the comparable reaction or the comparable reactions for LDH D in the species of interest can be functionally disrupted. For those organisms having analogous metabolic pathways such disruption can be accomplished by deleting, for example, the species homologue to either or both of the ldhA and/or did genes. As described previously, such homologues can include othologs and/or nonorthologous gene displacements. In some instances, such as when a substitute metabolic pathway exists in the species of interest, functional disruption can be accomplished by, for example, deletion of a paralog that catalyzes a similar, yet non-identical metabolic reaction which replaces the referenced reaction. Because certain differences exist among metabolic networks between different organisms, those skilled in the art will understand that the actual genes disrupted between different organisms may differ. However, the given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art also will understand that the methods of the invention can be applied to all microorganisms to identify the cognate metabolic alterations between organisms and to construct an organism in a species of interest that will enhance the coupling of 3-HP biosynthesis to growth.

The invention will be described herein with general reference to the metabolic reaction, reactant or product thereof, or with specific reference to one or more genes associated with the referenced metabolic reaction, reactant or product. Unless otherwise expressly stated herein, those skilled in the art will understand that reference to a reaction also constitutes reference to the reactants and products of the reaction. Similarly, unless otherwise expressly stated herein, reference to a reactant or product also references the reaction and that reference to any of these metabolic constitutes also references the gene or genes encoding the enzymes that catalyze the referenced reaction, reactant or product. Likewise, given the well known fields of metabolic biochemistry, enzymology and genomics, reference herein to a gene also constitutes a reference to the corresponding encoded enzyme and the reaction it catalyzes as well as the reactants and products of the reaction. As described previously and further below, exemplary reactions, reaction nomenclature, reactants, products, cofactors and genes encoding enzymes catalyzing a reaction involved in the growth-coupled production of 3-HP are set forth in Tables 1, 2 and 3.

The invention provides microorganisms having growth-coupled production of 3-HP. 3-HP production is obligatory linked to the exponential growth phase of the microorganism by genetically altering the metabolic pathways of the cell. The genetic alterations make 3-HP an obligatory product during the growth phase. Sets of metabolic alterations or transformations that result in elevated levels of 3-HP biosynthesis during exponential growth are exemplified in Table 2. Each alteration within a set corresponds to the requisite metabolic reaction that should be functionally disrupted. Functional disruption of all reactions within each set results in the obligatory production of 3-HP by the engineered strain during the growth phase. The corresponding reactions to the referenced alterations in and the gene or genes that encode them in E. coli, are set forth in Table 2. Table 3 provides the full biochemical names for the reactants, cofactors and products referenced in the reactions of Table 2.

The host microorganism can be selected to produce 3-HP precursors and/or 3-HP. Alternatively, non-3-HP producing microorganisms can be genetically modified to produce 3-HP or any required 3-HP precursors needed for the microorganism to complete biosynthesis of 3-HP. Specific examples of microorganisms genetically modified to produce 3-HP are those described above in, for example, U.S. Patent Application Nos. 20040076982 20050221466, and in U.S. Patent No. 6,852,517, and further exemplified in Example I. The overall conversion stoichiometry of various pathways to 3-HP for such exemplary microorganisms genetically modified to produce 3-HP is shown in Table 1.

For example, for each strain containing disruption of one or more reactions set forth in Table 2 or for each strain exemplified in Example I, the metabolic alterations that can be generated for growth coupled 3-HP production are shown in each row. These alterations include the functional disruption of from one to five or more reactions. In particular, 20 strains are exemplified in Example I that have non-naturally occurring metabolic genotypes. Each of these non-naturally occurring alterations result in an enhanced level of 3-HP production during the exponential growth phase of the microorganism compared to a wild-type strain, under appropriate culture conditions. Appropriate conditions include, for example, those exemplified further below in the Examples such as particular carbon sources or reactant availabilities and/or adaptive evolution.

Given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art will understand that to disrupt an enzymatic reaction it is necessary to disrupt the catalytic activity of the one or more enzymes involved in the reaction. Disruption can occur by a variety of means including, for example, deletion of an encoding gene or incorporation of a genetic alteration in one or more of the encoding gene sequences. The encoding genes targeted for disruption can be one, some, or all of the genes encoding enzymes involved in the catalytic activity. For example, where a single enzyme is involved in a targeted catalytic activity disruption can occur by a genetic alteration that reduces or destroys the catalytic activity of the encoded gene product. Similarly, where the single enzyme is multimeric, including heteromeric, disruption can occur by a genetic alteration that reduces or destroys the function of one or all subunits of the encoded gene products. Destruction of activity can be accomplished by loss of the binding activity of one or more subunits in order to form an active complex, by destruction of the catalytic subunit of the multimeric complex or by both. Other functions of multimeric protein association and activity also can be targeted in order to disrupt a metabolic reaction of the invention. Such other functions are well known to those skilled in the art. Further, some or all of the functions of a single polypeptide or multimeric complex can be disrupted according to the invention in order to reduce or abolish the catalytic activity of one or more enzymes involved in a reaction or metabolic modification of the invention. Similarly, some or all of enzymes involved in a reaction or metabolic modification of the invention can be disrupted so long as the targeted reaction is destroyed.

Given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art also will understand that an enzymatic reaction can be disrupted by reducing or eliminating reactions encoded by a common gene and/or by one or more orthologs of that gene exhibiting similar or substantially the same activity. Reduction of both the common gene and all orthologs can lead to complete abolishment of any catalytic activity of a targeted reaction. However, disruption of either the common gene or one or more orthologs can lead to a reduction in the catalytic activity of the targeted reaction sufficient to promote coupling of growth to 3-HP biosynthesis. Exemplified herein are both the common genes encoding catalytic activities for a variety of metabolic modifications as well as their orthologs. Those skilled in the art will understand that disruption of some or all of the genes encoding a enzyme of a targeted metabolic reaction can be practiced in the methods of the invention and incorporated into the non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention in order to achieve the growth- coupled 3-HP production.

Therefore, the invention further provides a non-naturally occurring microorganism having a set of metabolic modifications obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of said microorganism, said set of metabolic modifications comprising disruption of one or more genes comprising:

(a) the set of genes selected from: (1) adhE, idhA, pta-ackA; (2) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD; (3) adhE, IdhA, frdABCD, ptsG; (4) adhE, IdhA, frdABCD, pntAB; (5) adhE, IdhA, fumA, fumB, fumC; (6) adhE, IdhA, fumA, fumB, fumC, pntAB; (7) pflAB, IdhA, or (8) adhE, IdhA, pgi in a microorganism utilizing an anaerobic β- alanine 3-HP precursor pathway;

(b) the set of genes selected from: (1) tpi, zwf; (2) tpi, ybhE; (3) tpi, gnd; (4) fpb, gapA; (5) pgi, edd, or (6) pgi, eda in a microorganism utilizing an aerobic glycerol 3- HP precursor pathway;

(c) the set of genes selected from: (1) eno; (2)yibO; (3) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (4) yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, in a microorganism utilizing a glycerate 3-HP precursor pathway, or an ortholog thereof, wherein said microorganism exhibits stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid.

The common names for the genes encoding the enzymes responsible for catalyzing the specified reactions are shown in parenthesis in Table 2 and in the exemplary strains described further below in Example I. The non-naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (a)(7) pflAB, ldhA can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from aceEF,ptsG or frdABCD. The non-naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (a)(8) adhE, ldhA,pgi can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from glk or frdABCD. The non- naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (b)(l) tpi, zwf, (b)(2) tpi, ybhE or (b)(3) tpi, gndc&n further include disruption of at least one gene selected from zwf, adhC, gcd, mgsA, or deoC. The non-naturally occurring microorganism genes encoding the metabolic modification (b)(4) fpb, gapA can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from glpX, gapC, adhC, mgsA.fsa, talC or gcd. The non-naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (b)(5) pgi, edd or (b)(6) pgi, eda can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from adhC, gcd or deoC. The non-naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (c)(l) eno or (c)(2) yibO can further include disruption of at least both genes eno and yibO. The non-naturally occurring microorganism having genes encoding the metabolic modification (c)(3) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (c)(4)yibθ, atpH, or other atp subunit, can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from atpABCDEFGHI, aceEF,pβA, pflB, sucCD or sucAB, pta-ackA.

Briefly, with respect to the genes exemplified above and their relationship to their cognate subunits within multimeric complexes, their orthologs and the reactions catalyzed by their gene products, ADHEr is catalyzed by the enzyme encoded by one gene, bl241 (adhE).

LDH_D is encoded by the product of one gene, bl380 (idhA), which has an ortholog b2133 (did). PFL activity requires enzyme subunits encoded by two genes, b0902 and 0903, (represented collectively as pflAB). b3114 (tdcE) is an ortholog to b0903 (pflB). PTAr is encoded by the product of one gene, b2297(pta). This gene is typically removed along with the adjacent gene, b2296 (ackA), to help eliminate acetate production from acetyl coenzyme- A. FUM is encoded by the product of three different orthologous genes: bl612 (fumA), b4122 (fumB), and blόl 1 (fumC). FRD activity requires enzyme subunits encoded by four genes, b4151 , b4152, b4153, and b4154 (represented collectively as frdABCD). If expressed, the genes bO721, bO722, bO723, bO724 (represented collectively as sdhABCD) can also impart FRD activity. ATPS4r is catalyzed by a multisubunit enzyme encoded by the nine genes b3731 -b3739, which are represented collectively as atpABCDEFGHI. GLCpts activity requires enzyme subunits encoded by nine genes: b2415, b2416, b2417, bl817, bl818, bl819, bl 101, bO679, and bl621 (represented collectively as ptsG). AKGD activity requires both bO726 and bO727 (represented collectively as sucAB). PDH activity requires both b0114 and b0115 (represented collectively as aceEF). SUCOAS activity requires both bO728 and bO729 (represented collectively as sucCD). THD2 activity requires both b 1602 and b 1603

(represented collectively as pntAB). Since the reactions ATPS4r, FRD, PFL, GLCpts, AKGD, PDH, SUCOAS, and THD2 are carried out by protein complexes encoded by multiple genes, deleting one or a combination of genes from the atp,frd, pfl,pts, suc(A or B), ace, suc(C or D), or pnt gene clusters, respectively, are thus sufficient for disrupting the reactions. In the remaining cases, the gene responsible for the primary reaction activity in E. coli was chosen, based on information in the literature.

The non-naturally occurring microorganisms of the invention can be employed in the growth- coupled production of 3-HP. Essentially any quantity, including commercial quantities, can be synthesized using the growth-coupled 3-HP producers of the invention. Because the microorganisms of the invention obligatory couple 3-HP to growth continuous or near- continuous growth processes are particularly useful for biosynthetic production of 3-HP. Such continuous and/or near continuous growth processes are described above and exemplified below in the Examples. Continuous and/or near-continuous microorganism growth process also are well known in the art. Briefly, continuous and/or near-continuous growth processes involve maintaining the microorganism in an exponential growth or logarithmic phase. Procedures include using apparatuses such as the Evolugator™ evolution machine (Evolugate LLC, Gainesville, FL), fermentors and the like. Additionally, shake flask fermentation and grownth under microaerobic conditions also can be employed. Given the teachings and guidance provided herein those skilled in the art will understand that the growth-coupled 3-HP producing microorganisms can be employed in a variety of different settings under a variety of different conditions using a variety of different processes and/or apparatuses well known in the art. Generally, the continuous and/or near-continuous production of 3-HP will include culturing a non-naturally occurring growth-coupled 3-HP producing organism of the invention in sufficient nutrients and medium to sustain and/or nearly sustain growth in an exponential phase. Continuous culture under such conditions can include, for example, a day, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 days or more. Additionally, continuous culture can include 1 week, 2, 3, 4 or 5 or more weeks and up to several months. In is to be understood that the continuous and/or near- continuous culture conditions also can include all time intervals in between these exemplary periods.

3-HP can be harvested or isolated at any time point during the continuous and/or near- continuous culture period exemplified above. As exemplified below in the Examples, the longer the microorganisms are maintained in a continuous and/or near-continuous growth phase, the proportionally greater amount of 3-HP can be produced.

Therefore, the invention provides a method of producing 3-hydroxypropionic acid coupled to the growth of a microorganism. The method includes: (a) culturing under exponential growth phase in a sufficient amount of nutrients and media a non-naturally occurring microorganism comprising a set of metabolic modifications obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of said microorganism, said set of metabolic modifications comprising disruption of one or more genes comprising:

(1) the set of genes selected from: (a) adhE, ldhA, pta-ackA; (b) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD; (c) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, ptsG; (d) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, pntAB; (e) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, fumC; (f) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, fumC, pntAB; (g) pflAB, ldhA, or (h) adhE, ldhA, pgi in a microorganism utilizing an anaerobic β- alanine 3-HP precursor pathway;

(2) the set of genes selected from: (a) tpi, zwf; (b) tpi, ybhE; (c) tpi, gnd; (d) fpb, gapA; (e) pgi, edd, or (f) pgi, eda in a microorganism utilizing an aerobic glycerol 3-

HP precursor pathway;

(3) the set of genes selected from: (a) eno; (b)yibθ; (c) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or {ά)yibθ, atpH, or other atp subunit, in a microorganism utilizing a glycerate 3-HP precursor pathway, or an ortholog thereof, wherein said microorganism exhibits stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid, and (b) isolating 3-hydroxypropionic acid produced from said non-naturally occurring microorganism.

The genes encoding the metabolic modification (a)(\)(g) pflAB, ldhA can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from αceEF, ptsG or frdABCD. The genes encoding the metabolic modification (a)(l)(h) αdhE, ldhA, pgi can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from glk or frdABCD. The genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(2)(a) tpi, zwf, (a)(2)(b) (pi, ybhE or (a)(2)(c) tpi, gnd can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from zwf, αdhC, gcd, mgsA, or deoC. The genes encoding the metabolic modification (a)(2)(d) fpb, gαpA can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from glpX, gαpC, αdhC, mgsA.fsα, tαlC or gcd. The genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(2)(e) pgi, edd oτ (a)(2)(f) pgi, edα can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from αdhC, gcd or deoC. The genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(3)(a) eno or (a)(3)(b) yibO can further include disruption of at least both genes eno and yϊbO. The genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(3)(c) eno, αtpH, or other αtp subunit, or (a)(3)(d) yibO, αtpH, or other αtp subunit, can further include disruption of at least one gene selected from αtpABCDEFGHI, αceEF, pflA, pflB, sucCD or sucAB, ptα-αckA.

It is understood that modifications which do not substantially affect the activity of the various embodiments of this invention are also included within the definition of the invention provided herein. Accordingly, the following examples are intended to illustrate but not limit the present invention.

EXAMPLE I Microorganisms Having Growth-Coupled Production of 3-Hydroxypropionic Acid

In this Example, the metabolic engineering strategies identified by the methods described previously are described. Overall, several hundred plausible strategies were identified. A summary of the conversion stoichiometry of several 3-HP pathways can be found in Table 1 below. Table 2 sets forth a listing of E. coli genes responsible for catalyzing reactions targeted for removal whereas Table 3 provides the corresponding metabolic abbreviations. Table 4 provides the Blattner numbers corresponding to the genes listed in Table 2. Briefly, particularly useful designs for the purpose of demonstrating the methods described herein were placed into three categories: (1) removal of competing fermentation pathways, (2) elimination of pyruvate consuming reactions, and (3) alternative strategies. The solution boundaries for each design are obtained by separately maximizing and minimizing 3-HP production at every feasible growth rate. Evolutionary engineering can be employed to drive the performance of the various strains towards the rightmost portion of every solution boundary. This corresponds to the "optimal growth" solution or the maximum biomass yield. Completely anaerobic conditions are assumed along with a basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW/hr. Characterization of exemplary strains within each of the above categories are described further below. Procedures for the construction and culturing of strains identified as having growth-coupled 3-hydroxypropionic acid production also are described further below.

Knockout design strategies for producing 3-hydroxypropionic acid in a metabolic network are described further below. The strategies were determined by employing a genome-scale model of the E. coli metabolic network. The solution of the bilevel OptKnock problem provides one set of deletions. To enumerate further meaningful solutions (i.e., all sets of knockouts leading to growth-coupled production formation), an optimization technique, termed integer cuts, can be implemented. As described previously, this method proceeds by iteratively solving the OptKnock problem with the incorporation of an additional constraint referred to as an integer cut at each iteration.

Set forth below are exemplary identified designs for increasing 3-HP production in E. coli. A preliminary evaluation of more than 100 aerobic and anaerobic knockout strategies predicted by employing the reduced E. coli metabolic network was undertaken first. A representative subset of these evaluated designs was further characterized for their effect on the complete model of £. coli comprised of 1,145 reactions. 3-HP was selected to be secreted via proton symport. The solution goal for the final selection of designs was a growth-coupled yield of 3-HP. To examine this characteristic, production cones were constructed for each strategy by first maximizing and subsequently, minimizing the 3-HP yields at different rates of biomass formation feasible in the network. Adaptive evolutionary engineering strategies can be employed to drive the performance of the various strains towards the rightmost portion of every solution boundary. If the rightmost boundary of all possible phenotypes of an altered network is a single point, this result indicates that there is a unique optimum yield of 3-HP at the maximum biomass formation rate possible in the network. The 3-HP and biomass yields are reported for a basis glucose uptake rate of 10 mmol/gDW.hr.

Maximum Yields of Metabolic Pathways to 3-HP: In this report, we summarize metabolic engineering designs under simulated conditions where 3-HP is produced by (i) an anaerobic route through β-alanine; (ii) an aerobic route through glycerol, or (iii) an in silico designed pathway through glycerate.

For the anaerobic β-alanine route, the following reactions were available to the E. coli metabolic network:

Pyruvate/alanine aminotransferase: pyruvate + L-glutamate -» L-alanine + alpha-ketoglutarate Alanine-2,3-aminotransferase: L-alanine -> β-alanine β-alanine aminotransferase: β-alanine + alpha-ketoglutarate → malonate semi aldehyde + L-glutamate 3-hydroxypropionic acid dehydrogenase: malonate semialdehyde + NADH + H → 3-hydroxypropionic acid + NAD

The designs exemplified herein resulting from the above pathways are applicable if any conceivable sequence of reactions is present in E. coli metabolic model that can lead to the net conversion of one molecule of pyruvate to one molecule of 3-HP with the simultaneous regeneration of 1 molecule of NAD (or NADP) from NADH (or NADPH).

For the production pathway through glycerol, the following non-native reactions were available to the E. coli metabolic network:

Glycerol dehydratase: Glycerol -> 3-Hydroxypropanal + H2O Aldehyde dehydrogenase: 3-hydroxypropanal + H2O + NAD -> 3-hydroxypropionic acid + 2 H + NADH

The designs exemplified herein resulting from the above pathways are applicable if any conceivable sequence of reactions is present in the metabolic model that can lead to the net conversion of one molecule of glycerol to one molecule of 3-HP with the simultaneous generation of 1 molecule of NADH (NADPH) from NAD (NADP).

The glycerate pathway relies on the following reactions to be available:

3-phosphoglycerate phosphatase: 3 -phosphogly cerate + H2O → glycerate + Pi

Glycerate dehydratase: glycerate -> H2O + malonate semialdehyde

3-hydroxypropionic acid dehydrogenase: malonate semialdehyde + NADH + H -> 3-hydroxypropionic acid + NAD

If, in vivo, the E. coli glycerate kinase can be used to form glycerate, then this reaction is preferentially used over 3-phosphoglycerate phosphatase, which does not lead to the generation of an ATP molecule. The designs exemplified herein resulting from the above pathways are applicable if any conceivable sequence of reactions is present in the metabolic model that can lead to the net conversion of one molecule of 3-phosphoglycerate to one molecule of 3-HP with the simultaneous generation of 1 molecule of NADH (NADPH) from NAD (NADP). Figure 4 illustrates the above production routes along with a several other routes well known in the art and described in U.S. Patent No. 6,852,517 and in U.S. Patent Application 2004/0076982 Al.

The maximum theoretical yields of the above pathways are illustrated in Figure 4 and shown below in Table 1. These yields assume for simulation purposes either no energetic requirement or that the production of each mol of 3-HP is accompanied by the production of 1 mol of ATP. Pathways are labeled as aerobic if they fail to generate enough ATP to operate at desired levels and are forced to rely on some degree of oxygenation for energy generation. Pathways with higher oxygen requirements are less energetically efficient.

Table 1: The overall conversion stoichiometry of various pathways to 3-HP assuming (A) no additional energetic requirement and (B) an energetic requirement of 1 ATP per 3-HP produced. Glucose and oxygen are taken up while all other molecules are produced.

* assumes glycerate is generated by glycerate kinase (i.e., 3pg + adp — > atp + glycerate) ** assumes glycerate is generated by 3-phosphoglycerate phosphatase as shown in Figure 4 (3pg + h2o → Pi + glycerate)

OptKnock-derived Knockout Designs: Briefly, OptKnock was employed as described previously to identify reactions to be eliminated from an in silico model organism to couple the biochemical production and biomass yields. The identified designs exemplified herein list the metabolic reactions targeted for removal by OptKnock. The E. coli genes known to encode the enzymes that catalyze each reaction also are provided to describe which genetic modifications can be implemented to achieve the growth-coupled production phenotypes identified by the in silico methods of the invention. Given the teachings and guidance provided herein, those skilled in the art will understand that if new discoveries reveal further genes in the model organism's genome that can confer one or more of the reactions functionalities targeted for removal in a given design, then those genes also can be removed to further augment growth-coupled production of 3-HP for the stains identified by the methods the invention and for those representative strains exemplified herein.

In certain growth-coupled 3-HP producing strains of the invention, it can be sufficient to reduce or prevent the activity of a subset of the reactions in each of the growth-coupled 3-HP producing designs to maintain or confer a growth-coupled producing phenotype. The subset can include inhibiting at least one, some or one less than all of the identified activities within the set. For example, if an identified design specifies removal of a particular reaction whose activity in vivo is insufficient to uncouple growth from 3-HP production, then the genes encoding the enzymes that catalyze this reaction can be left in tact. In addition, any combination (i.e., at least one and at most all) of the listed gene deletions for a given reaction can have the desired effect of ensuring that reaction is non-functional in E. coli or another model organism. For convenience, the designs exemplified herein are provided in the following format:

design #) genes targeted for removal (abbreviations of reactions targeted for removal).

Table 2 contains a list of reactions targeted for removal for the exemplified growth-coupled 3-HP producing strains along with their abbreviations, genes and stoichiometry. Methods for constructing strains that remove or inhibit these exemplary reactions targeted for removal in a given design are well known to those skilled in the art .

Table 2: Known E. coli genes responsible for catalyzing the reactions targeted for removal. Metabolite abbreviations are provided in Table 3. Table 4 provides the Blattner numbers for each gene.

Table 3: Metabolite names corresponding to abbreviations from Table 2. Iubci8 Cytosql JUbiguinqne-8 |ubq8h2 Pytosol [Ubiquinol-8

Table 4: Corresponding Blattner numbers for each gene name.

Growth-Coupled 3-HP Production Using the Anaerobic β-Alanine Pathway: The first set of identified knockout designs described in this section are directed to the removal of various combinations of genes responsible for the production of the fermentation products acetate (ackA-pta), ethanol (adhE), lactate (IdhA), and succinate {frdABCD). In particular, six growth-coupled 3-HP producing designs are described whose production capabilities are shown in Figure 5. The six growth-coupled 3-HP producing strains are:

#1) adhE, IdhA, pta-ackA (ADHEr, LDH_D, PTAr and/or ACKr)

#2) adhE, IdhA, frdABCD (ADHEr, LDH D, FRD) #3) adhE, IdhA, frdABCD, ptsG (ADHEr, LDH_D, FRD, GLCpts)

#4) adhE, IdhA, frdABCD, pntAB (ADHEr, LDH_D, FRD, THD2)

#5) adhE, IdhA, fumA, fumB, fumC (ADHEr, LDH_D, FUM)

#6) adhE, IdhA, fumA, fumB, fumC, pntAB (ADHEr, LDH_D, FUM, THD2)

A final mass yield can be increased to about 90% by further evolving microorganisms engineered to contain these activity changes towards their maximum growth rate (i.e., right most portion of solution boundaries in Figure 5). Eliminating either the phosphotransferase system for glucose uptake (i.e., ptsG) or the proton pumping NAD(P) transhydrogenase (i.e., pntAB) in addition to the deletions of designs #2 can further lead to strains that require the production of 3-HP at any possible growth rate. Figure 5B shows that combining deletions in the fumarase genes with adhE and IdhA provides an alternative to coupling these deletions with frdABCD. With respect to sdhABCD deficient strains, one useful procedure is to deleted sdhABCD prior to evolution of strains further containing ΔfrdABCD because, although sdhABCD expression is repressed under anaerobic conditions, this activity has the capability to complement frdABCD provided its expression is adequate (Maklashina et al., J. Bacteriol. 180:5989-96 (1998)).

The second set of identified knockout designs for the β-alanine production route utilizes the deletion of both pyruvate dehydrogenase (aceEF) and pyruvate formate lyase (pflAB) in place of ethanol dehydrogenase {adhE). Four of such growth-coupled 3-HP producing designs are described whose production capabilities are shown in Figure 6. The four growth-coupled 3- HP producing strains are:

#7) aceEF, pflAB, ldhA (PDH, PFLi, LDH_D) #8) aceEF, pflAB, ldhA, ptsG (PDH, PFLi, LDH_D, GLCpts)

#9) aceEF, pflAB, ldhA, ptsG, frdABCD (PDH, PFLi, LDH_D, GLCpts)

#10) aceEF, pflAB, ldhA, frdABCD (PDH, PFLi, LDH_D, FRD)

Although pyruvate dehydrogenase is repressed under anaerobic conditions, its deletion can prevent evolution from increasing its expression. In contrast, the rationale for the above designs is based on the joint removal of pyruvate dehydrogenase and pyruvate formate lyase to create a metabolic bottleneck at pyruvate, a precursor in the anaerobic β-alanine production pathway. Thus, these strains can have a simpler evolutionary trajectory towards 3-HP formation than the strains described by designs #1 though #6 above. The complete reliance of growth on 3-HP production is achieved with the deletion of ldhA, frdABCD, andptsG in addition to αceEF and pflAB.

A third set of identified knockout designs for the β-alanine production route utilizes removal of phosphoglucose isomerase (pgi) along with αdhE and ldhA. This deletion combination forces reliance on the Entner Doudoroff (ED) pathway for substrate utilization. Three exemplary strains are set forth below as strain numbers 11-13. Figure 7 shows the growth- coupled production of 3-HP in these strains and shows that those strains having growth requirements of at least a 20% 3-HP yield can be generated by the removal of frdABCD or glk in addition to adhE, ldhA, and pgi. However, the coupling of 3-HP production at optimal growth is relatively less tight, indicating less production stability even following evolution. Reliance on the ED pathway is a useful alternative in E. coli hosts even in light of this organism's preference to utilize Embden-Meyerhoff-Parnas (EMP) glycolysis under general fermentation conditions. #11) adhE, idhA, pgi (ADHEr, LDH_D, PGI)

#12) adhE, IdhA, pgi, glk (ADHEr, LDH_D, PGI, HEX 1 )

#13) adhE, IdhA, pgi, frdABCD (ADHEr, LDH_D, PGI, FRD)

Growth-Coupled 3-HP Production Using the Aerobic Glycerol Pathway: An initial gene deletion design for invoking growth-coupled production of 3-HP through the glycerol pathway forces reaction flux through the initial steps of glycolysis by removing access to the oxidative branch of the pentose phosphate pathway (zwf). This design then halves the glycolytic flow after fructose- 1 ,6-diphosphate via the triose phosphate isomerase (tpi) deletion. An exemplary growth-coupled 3-HP producing strain utilizing this glycerol pathway is:

#14) tpi, zwf adhC, gcd, mgsA, deoC (TPI, GόPDHy, ALCDl 9, GLCDe, MGSA, DRPA)

Half of the glycolytic flux is directed towards product formation while the other half is directed towards biomass and energy generation. The remaining gene knockouts in the above strain either prevent the channeling of flux away from the 3-HP production pathway or prevent the circumvention of the two deletions, tpi and zwf. The adhC deletion prevents glyceraldehyde production via glycerol dehydrogenase while the mgsA deletion prevents the conversion of dihydroxyacetone phosphate into lactate via the methylglyoxal pathway. The deoC deletion prevents an unlikely degradation pathway from ribose-5 -phosphate to glyeraldehyde-3 -phosphate and acetyl -CoA from draining carbon away from the product pathway. The removal of gcd prevents a potential bypass of the zw/deletion that involves the conversion of glucose to gluconate which can be phosphorylated by gluconate kinase and enter the pentose phosphate pathway at 6-phosphogluconate.

Figure 8A shows the growth-coupled production of 3-HP for the above strain and indicates that the tpi deletion can impose a ceiling of about 1 mol 3-HP/mol glucose on the maximum achievable 3-HP yield. In addition, despite the imposed deletions, glycerol secretion can theoretically compete with 3-HP production. However, it is likely that evolution under growth selective pressures will select for 3-HP production over glycerol production because one NADH is generated by converting glycerol to 3-HP.

Two additional designs employing growth-coupled production of 3-HP through the glycerol pathway utilize the elimination of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (gapA, gapC) which forces the metabolic network to rely on the ED pathway for pyruvate generation. These designs are shown below as strains 15 and 16 and their 3-HP growth-coupled production results are shown in Figure 8B.

#15) ftp, glpX, gapA, gapC, adhC, mgsA, fsa, talC (FBP, GAPD, ALCDl 9, F6PA, MGSA, F6PA)

#16) fbp, glpX, gapA, gapC, adhC, mgsA, fsa, talC, gcd (FBP, GAPD, ALCD19, MGSA, F6PA, GLCDe)

For the engineered cells are to attain optimal growth, the ED flux towards glyceraldehyde-3- phosphate is directed towards product formation, while the flux towards pyruvate is used to generate energy and reducing equivalents from the TCA cycle. The flip, fsa, and talC deletions prevent the flux from glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate from passing through a sequence of gluconeogenic reaction steps, and thus render the production of 3-HP more energetically favorable. The adhC, mgsA, gcd deletions serve to prevent the loss of carbon flux through alternative degradation routes.

The final design for the glycerol-based production route centers on limiting the flux through glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and blocking the ED pathway by deleting edd ox eda.

#17) pgi, edd, adhC, mgsA, gcd, deoC (PGI, PGDHy, ALCD19, MGSA, GLCDe, DRPA)

The above design sets a control point at glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate where any flux through glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase is directed towards biomass formation. The remaining flux through glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate is directed towards the 3-HP production pathway. The pgi knockout is only necessary only if its direction in vivo is towards glucose- 6-phosphate. As with the previous designs, the deletions of adhC, mgsA, gcd, and deoC prevent the loss of carbon through alternative degradation routes.

Growth-Coupled 3-HP Production Using the the Glycerate Pathway: The glycerate designs were determined under conditions where the formation of glycerate from 3- phosphoglycerate leads to the production of one ATP molecule. Accordingly, the net conversion of 3-phosphoglycerate to 3-HP results in the regeneration of 1 NADH from NAD and 1 ATP. In terms of energy and redox yields, this pathway becomes equivalent to the anaerobic production route through β-alanine meaning that all designs described above under the anaerobic β-alanine pathway also are applicable here under anaerobic conditions. For example, the production envelope for design #2 using a functional glycerate pathway to 3-HP in E. co Ii reveals a strong coupling between 3-HP and growth (see Figure 10A). However, in addition to the designs described above under the anaerobic β-alanine pathway, the removal of enolase {end) or phosphoglycerate mutase (yibO) also serves to tightly couple cell growth to 3-HP production.

#18) eno oxyibO (ENO or PGM)

Either knockout can prevent ATP generation through substrate level phosphorylation leading to the reliance on the 3-HP production pathway to generate energy. Another useful set of designs involves the simultaneous removal of enolase (eno) and ATP synthase (atpABCDEFGHI).

#19) atpABCDEFGHI, eno or yibO, aceEF,pflA, pflB (ATPS4r, ENO or PGM, PDH, PFLi) #20) atpABCDEFGHI, eno or yibO, sucCD or sucAB, pta-ackA (ATPS4r, ENO or

PGM, SUCOAS or AKGD, PTAr)

When the enolase and ATP synthase knockouts are combined with additional knockouts to limit the flux through the TCA cycle or towards acetate production, the production of glycerate becomes needed for energy generation and cell growth (see Figure 10B). Moreover, the strains constructed based on designs #19-20 are stable regardless of oxygenation, making them well-suited for a large-scale industrial process which is difficult to keep completely anaerobic but expensive to aerate.

Validation: In order to coorborate the computational strains identified by the methods of the invention, the strains are constructed, adaptively evolved and tested for 3-HP synthesis and/or accumulated levels. Construction of the strains can be performed by using methods well known in the art and/or by using commercial services available in the art. For E. coli based strains, Escherichia coli K-12 MGl 655 can be used as the wild-type strain into which the deletions are introduced. The strains can be constructed by, for example, incorporating in-frame deletions using homologous recombination via the λ Red recombinase system of Datsenko and Wanner {Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:6640-45 (2000)). This approach involves replacing a chromosomal sequence (i.e., the gene targeted for removal) with a selectable antibiotic resistance gene, which itself is later removed. The knockouts can be integrated one by one into the recipient strain. No drug resistance markers or scars will remain after each deletion allowing accumulation of multiple mutations in each target strain. Deletion technology can completely remove the gene targeted for removal so as to substantially reduce the possibility of the constructed mutants reverting back to the wild-type.

The engineered strains can be characterized by, for example, measuring growth rate, substrate uptake rate, and/or product/byproduct secretion rate. The initial strains can exhibit suboptimal growth rates until their metabolic networks have adjusted to their missing functionalities. To enable this adjustment, the strains can be adaptively evolved. By subjecting the strains to adaptive evolution, cellular growth rate becomes the primary selection pressure and the modified cells are compelled to reallocate their metabolic fluxes in order to enhance their rates of growth. This reprogramming of metabolism has been demonstrated for several in silico model strains that had been adaptively evolved on various substrates to reach the growth rates predicted a priori by the in silico model (Fong S. S. and B. O. Palsson, Nat Genet, 36:1056-58 (2004)). The growth improvements brought about by adaptive evolution of the constructed strains identified by the methods of the invention will be accompanied by enhanced rates of 3-HP production. Adaptive evolution also can be performed in triplicate (running in parallel) to minimize any differences in the evolutionary patterns that might impact the extent of adjustment to optimal growth characteristics (see, for example, Fong and Palsson, supra; Fong et al., J Bacteriol 185:6400-08 (2003)), and Ibarra et al., Nature 420:186-89 (2002)). Hence, strains resulting in superior production qualities over another can be identified from the triplicate samples. Evolutions can be run for a period of 2-6 weeks, depending on the rate of growth improvement obtained. In general, evolutions will be stopped once a stable growth phenotype is obtained.

Following the adaptive evolution process, the new strains can again be characterized by, for example, measuring growth rate, substrate uptake rate and/or product/byproduct secretion rate. These results can be compared to the strains identified by the methods of the invention by plotting actual growth and production yields along side the production envelopes in the figures set forth herein. The most successful OptKnock design/evolution combinations can be chosen to pursue further, and can be characterized in lab-scale batch and continuous fermentations. The growth-coupled biochemical production concept behind the OptKnock approach should also result in the generation of genetically stable overproducers. Thus, the cultures can be maintained in continuous mode for one month to evaluate long-term stability. Periodic samples can be taken to ensure that yield and productivity are maintained throughout the experiment.

Summary: Gene deletion designs for increasing 3-HP production in an exemplary E. coli host microorganism have been identified. Evolution of these designs towards the designed end points is particularly useful in combination with identification and metabolic engineering of strains having growth-coupled production of products such as 3-HP. The computational system of the invention also is particularly useful for such commercial applications because it can identify non-intuitive knockouts by considering the entire metabolic network of E. coli.

Throughout this application various publications have been referenced within parentheses. The disclosures of these publications in their entireties are hereby incorporated by reference in this application in order to more fully describe the state of the art to which this invention pertains.

Although the invention has been described with reference to the disclosed embodiments, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the specific examples and studies detailed above are only illustrative of the invention. It should be understood that various modifications can be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is limited only by the following claims.

What is claimed is:

1. A non-naturally occurring microorganism comprising one or more gene disruptions, said one or more gene disruptions occurring in genes encoding an enzyme obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of said microorganism when said gene disruption reduces an activity of said enzyme, whereby said one or more gene disruptions confers stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid onto said non-naturally occurring microorganism.

2. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 1, wherein said one or more gene disruptions comprise a metabolic modification listed in Table 2.

3. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 1, wherein said one or more gene disruptions comprise a deletion of said one or more genes.

4. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 1, wherein said microorganism comprises a bacterium, yeast or fungus.

5. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 4, wherein said bacteria comprises a species selected from E. coli, A. succiniciproducens, A. succinogenes, M. succiniciproducens, R. etli, Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Gluconobacter oxydans, Zymomonas mobilis, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptomyces coelicolor, Clostridium acetobutylicum, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Klebsiella oxytoca and Pseudomonas putida.

6. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 4, wherein said yeast comprises a species selected from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Penicilium chrysogenum, Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus niger, and Pichiapastoris.

7. A non-naturally occurring microorganism comprising a set of metabolic modifications obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of said microorganism, said set of metabolic modifications comprising disruption of one or more genes comprising: (a) the set of genes selected from: (1) adhE, ldhA, pta-ackA; (2) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD; (3) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, ptsG; (4) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, pntAB; (5) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, fiimC; (6) adhE, ldhA, fϊimA, fumB, fumC, pntAB; (7) pflAB, ldhA, or (8) adhE, ldhA, pgi in a microorganism utilizing an anaerobic β- alanine 3-HP precursor pathway;

(b) the set of genes selected from: (1) tpi, zwf; (2) tpi, ybhE; (3) tpi, gnd; (4) fpb, gapA; (5) pgi, edd, or (6) pgi, eda in a microorganism utilizing an aerobic glycerol 3- HP precursor pathway;

(c) the set of genes selected from: (1) eno; (2)yibO; (3) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (4) yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, in a microorganism utilizing a glycerate 3-HP precursor pathway, or an ortholog thereof, wherein said microorganism exhibits stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid.

8. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(7) pflAB, ldhA further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from aceEF, ptsG or frdABCD.

9. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(8) adhE, ldhA, pgi further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from glk or frdABCD.

10. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (b)(l) tpi, zwf, (b)(2) tpi, ybhE or (b)(3) tpi, gnd further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from zwf, adhC, gcd, mgsA, or deoC.

11. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (b)(4)fpb, gapA further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from glpX, gapC, adhC, mgsA, fsa, talC or gcd.

12. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (b)(5) pgi, edd or (b)(6) pgi, eda further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from adhC, gcd or deoC.

13. The non-natural Iy occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (c)(l) eno or (c)(2) yibO further comprise disruption of at least both genes eno anάyibO.

14. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (c)(3) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (c)(4) yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from atpABCDEFGHI, aceEF,pflA, pflB, sucCD or sucAB, pta-ackA.

15. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said disruption of one or more genes comprises a deletion.

16. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 7, wherein said microorganism comprises a bacterium, yeast or fungus.

17. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 16, wherein said bacteria comprises a species selected from E. coli, A. succiniciproducens, A. succinogenes, M. succiniciproducens, R. etli, Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Gluconobacter oxydans, Zymomonas mobilis, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptomyces coelicolor, Clostridium acetobutylicum, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Klebsiella oxytoca, and Pseudomonas putida.

18. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 16, wherein said yeast comprises a species selected from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Penicilium chrysogenum,

Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus niger, and Pichiapastoris.

19. A method of producing a non-naturally occurring microorganism having stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid, comprising:

(a) identifying in silico a set of metabolic modifications requiring 3- hydroxypropionic acid production during exponential growth, and

(b) genetically modifying a microorganism to contain said set of metabolic modifications requiring 3-hydroxypropionic acid production.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein said set of metabolic modifications are identified by an in silico method selected from OptKnock or SimPheny.

21. The method of claim 19, wherein said set of metabolic modifications comprise functional disruption of one or more metabolic reactions.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein said metabolic modifications are disrupted by gene deletion.

23. The method of claim 21, wherein said non-naturally occurring microorganism comprises a microorganism having a metabolic modification selected from the set of metabolic modifications listed in Table 2.

24. The method of clam 19, further comprising culturing said genetically modified microorganism.

25. The method of claim 24, further comprising adaptively evolving said genetically modified microorganism under conditions requiring 3-hydroxypropionic acid production.

26. The method of claim 19, wherein said non-naturally occurring microorganism comprises a bacterium, yeast or fungus.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein said bacteria comprises a species selected from E. coli, A. succiniciproducens, A. succinogenes, M. succiniciproducens, R. etli, Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Gluconobacter oxydans, Zymomonas mobilis, Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptomyces coelicolor,

Clostridium acetobutylicum, Pseudomonas βuorescens, Klebsiella oxytoca, and Pseudomonas putida.

28. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim26, wherein said yeast comprises a species selected from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Kluyveromyces lactis, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Penicilium chrysogenum,

Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus niger, and Pichiapastoris.

29. A microorganism produced by the method of claim 19 or 25.

30. A method of producing 3-hydroxypropionic acid coupled to the growth of a microorganism, comprising:

(a) culturing under exponential growth phase in a sufficient amount of nutrients and media a non-naturally occurring microorganism comprising a set of metabolic modifications obligatory coupling 3-hydroxypropionic acid production to growth of said microorganism, said set of metabolic modifications comprising disruption of one or more genes comprising:

(1) the set of genes selected from: (a) adhE, ldhA, pta-ackA; (b) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD; (c) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, ptsG; (d) adhE, ldhA, frdABCD, pntAB; (e) adhE, ldhA, ftαmA, fumB, fumC; (f) adhE, ldhA, fumA, fumB, fumC, pntAB; (g) pfiAB, ldhA, or (h) adhE, ldhA, pgi in a microorganism utilizing an anaerobic β-alanine 3-HP precursor pathway;

(2) the set of genes selected from: (a) tpi, zwf; (b) tpi, ybhE; (c) tpi, gnd; (d) fpb, gapA; (e) pgi, edd, or (f) pgi, eda in a microorganism utilizing an aerobic glycerol 3-HP precursor pathway;

(3) the set of genes selected from: (a) eno; (b) yibO; (c) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (d) yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, in a microorganism utilizing a glycerate 3-HP precursor pathway, or an ortholog thereof, wherein said microorganism exhibits stable growth-coupled production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid, and

(b) isolating 3-hydroxypropionic acid produced from said non-naturally occurring microorganism.

31. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(l)(g) pflAB, ldhA further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from αceEF, ptsG or frdABCD.

32. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(l)(h) αdhE, ldhA, pgi further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from glk or frdABCD.

33. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(2)(a) tpi, zwf, (a)(2)(b) tpi, ybhE or (a)(2)(c) tpi, gnd further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from zwf, adhC, gcd, mgsA, or deoC.

34. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(2)(d) fpb, gapA further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from glpX, gapC, adhC, mgsA.fsa, talC or gcd.

35. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(2)(e) pgi, eddox (a)(2)(f) pgi, eda further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from adhC, gcd or deoC.

36. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(3)(a) eno or (a)(3)(b) yibO further comprise disruption of at least both genes eno and yibO.

37. The non-naturally occurring microorganism of claim 30, wherein said genes encoding said metabolic modification (a)(3)(c) eno, atpH, or other atp subunit, or (a)(3)(d) yibO, atpH, or other atp subunit, further comprise disruption of at least one gene selected from atpABCDEFGHI, aceEF, pflA, pflB, sucCD or sucAB, pta-ackA.

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