A pH-responsive genetic sensor for the dynamic regulation of D-xylonic acid accumulation in Escherichia coli

  • Angelo B. Bañares
  • Kris Niño G. Valdehuesa
  • Kristine Rose M. Ramos
  • Grace M. Nisola
  • Won-Keun LeeEmail author
  • Wook-Jin ChungEmail author
Applied genetics and molecular biotechnology


The xylose oxidative pathway (XOP) is continuously gaining prominence as an alternative for the traditional pentose assimilative pathways in prokaryotes. It begins with the oxidation of D-xylose to D-xylonic acid, which is further converted to α-ketoglutarate or pyruvate + glycolaldehyde through a series of enzyme reactions. The persistent drawback of XOP is the accumulation of D-xylonic acid intermediate that causes culture media acidification. This study addresses this issue through the development of a novel pH-responsive synthetic genetic controller that uses a modified transmembrane transcription factor called CadCΔ. This genetic circuit was tested for its ability to detect extracellular pH and to control the buildup of D-xylonic acid in the culture media. Results showed that the pH-responsive genetic sensor confers dynamic regulation of D-xylonic acid accumulation, which adjusts with the perturbation of culture media pH. This is the first report demonstrating the use of a pH-responsive transmembrane transcription factor as a transducer in a synthetic genetic circuit that was designed for XOP. This may serve as a benchmark for the development of other genetic controllers for similar pathways that involve acidic intermediates.


Xylose oxidative pathway D-xylonic acid Dahms pathway CadC Transcription factor Biosensor 


Funding information

This work was supported by Korea Research Fellowship Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (2015H1D3A1062172), by the Ministry of Education (2018R1D1A1B07043993), and by the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy (MOTIE, No. 20194010201750).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict(s) of interest.

Statement of informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2019_10297_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (617 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 617 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Energy Science and Technology (DEST), Energy and Environment Fusion Technology Center (E2FTC)Myongji UniversityYonginRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Division of Bioscience and BioinformaticsMyongji UniversityYonginRepublic of Korea

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