Mini-review: In vitro Metabolic Engineering for Biomanufacturing of High-value Products

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With the breakthroughs in biomolecular engineering and synthetic biology, many valuable biologically active compound and commodity chemicals have been successfully manufactured using cell-based approaches in the past decade. However, because of the high complexity of cell metabolism, the identification and optimization of rate-limiting metabolic pathways for improving the product yield is often difficult, which represents a significant and unavoidable barrier of traditional in vivo metabolic engineering. Recently, some in vitro engineering approaches were proposed as alternative strategies to solve this problem. In brief, by reconstituting a biosynthetic pathway in a cell-free environment with the supplement of cofactors and substrates, the performance of each biosynthetic pathway could be evaluated and optimized systematically. Several value-added products, including chemicals, nutraceuticals, and drug precursors, have been biosynthesized as proof-of-concept demonstrations of in vitro metabolic engineering. This mini-review summarizes the recent progresses on the emerging topic of in vitro metabolic engineering and comments on the potential application of cell-free technology to speed up the “design-build-test” cycles of biomanufacturing.



Cell-free, Biosynthesis, Metabolic pathways, Design-build-test cycle