Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
Electron transfer is central to a wide range of essential metabolic pathways, from photosynthesis to fermentation. The evolutionary diversity and conservation of proteins that transfer electrons makes these pathways a valuable platform for engineered metabolic circuits in synthetic biology. Rational engineering of electron transfer pathways containing hydrogenases has the potential to lead to industrial scale production of hydrogen as an alternative source of clean fuel and experimental assays for understanding the complex interactions of multiple electron transfer proteins in vivo. We designed and implemented a synthetic hydrogen metabolism circuit in Escherichia coli that creates an electron transfer pathway both orthogonal to and integrated within existing metabolism. The design of such modular electron transfer circuits allows for facile characterization of in vivo system parameters with applications toward further engineering for alternative energy production.