4-Androstene-3,17-dione (4-AD) and 22-hydroxy-23,24-bisnorchol-4-ene-3-one (BA) are the most important and representative C19- and C22-steroidal materials. The optimalization of sterol production with mycobacterial phytosterol conversion has been investigated for decades. One of the major challenges is that current industrial mycobacterial strains accumulate unignorable impurities analogous to desired sterol intermediates, significantly hampering product extractions and refinements. Previously, we identified Mycobacterium neoaurum HGMS2 as an efficient 4-AD-producing strain (Wang et al. in Microb Cell Fact. 19:187, 2020). Recently, we have genetically modified the HGMS2 strain to remove its major impurities including ADD and 9OH-AD (Li et al. in Microb Cell Fact. 20:158, 2021). Unexpectedly, the modified mutants started to significantly accumulate BA compared with the HGMS2 strain. In this work, while we attempted to block BA occurrence during 4-AD accumulation in HGMS2 mutants, we identified a few loop pathways that regulated metabolic flux switching between 4-AD and BA accumulations and found that both the 4-AD and BA pathways shared a 9,10-secosteroidial route. One of the key enzymes in the loop pathways was Hsd4A1, which played an important role in determining 4-AD accumulation. The inactivation of the hsd4A1 gene significantly blocked the 4-AD metabolic pathway so that the phytosterol degradation pathway flowed to the BA metabolic pathway, suggesting that the BA metabolic pathway is a complementary pathway to the 4-AD pathway. Thus, knocking out the hsd4A1 gene essentially made the HGMS2 mutant (HGMS2) start to efficiently accumulate BA. After further knocking out the endogenous kstd and ksh genes, an HGMS2 mutant, HGMS2, enhanced the phytosterol conversion rate to BA in 1.2-fold compared with the HGMS2 mutant in pilot-scale fermentation. The final BA yield increased to 38.3 g/L starting with 80 g/L of phytosterols. Furthermore, we knocked in exogenous active kstd or ksh genes to HGMS2 to construct DBA- and 9OH-BA-producing strains. The resultant DBA- and 9OH-BA-producing strains, HGMS2 and HGMS2, efficiently converted phytosterols to DBA- and 9OH-BA with the rates of 42.5% and 40.3%, respectively, and their final yields reached 34.2 and 37.3 g/L, respectively, starting with 80 g/L phytosterols. Overall, our study not only provides efficient strains for the industrial production of BA, DBA and 9OH-BA but also provides insights into the metabolic engineering of the HGMS2 strain to produce other important steroidal compounds.
© 2023. The Author(s).