Alternative carbohydrate pathways - enzymes, functions and engineering

Dominik Kopp, Anwar Sunna*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
270 Downloads (Pure)


Metabolic engineering is crucial in the development of production strains for platform chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biomaterials from renewable resources. The central carbon metabolism (CCM) of heterotrophs plays an essential role in the conversion of biomass to the cellular building blocks required for growth. Yet, engineering the CCM ultimately aims toward a maximization of flux toward products of interest. The most abundant dissimilative carbohydrate pathways amongst prokaryotes (and eukaryotes) are the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) and the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathways, which build the basics for heterotrophic metabolic chassis strains. Although the EMP is regarded as the textbook example of a carbohydrate pathway owing to its central role in production strains like Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Bacillus subtilis, it is either modified, complemented or even replaced by alternative carbohydrate pathways in different organisms. The ED pathway also plays key roles in biotechnological relevant bacteria, like Zymomonas mobilis and Pseudomonas putida, and its importance was recently discovered in photoautotrophs and marine microorganisms. In contrast to the EMP, the ED pathway and its variations are not evolutionary optimized for high ATP production and it differs in key principles such as protein cost, energetics and thermodynamics, which can be exploited in the construction of unique metabolic designs. Single ED pathway enzymes and complete ED pathway modules have been used to rewire carbon metabolisms in production strains and for the construction of cell-free enzymatic pathways. This review focuses on the differences of the ED and EMP pathways including their variations and discusses the use of alternative pathway strategies for in vivo and cell-free metabolic engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-912
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Reviews in Biotechnology
Issue number7
Early online date13 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Carbon metabolism
  • Entner-Doudoroff pathway
  • Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas pathway
  • metabolic engineering
  • cell-free metabolic engineering
  • cofactors
  • thermodynamics


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