Metabolic engineering of Bacillus megaterium for heparosan biosynthesis using Pasteurella multocida heparosan synthase, PmHS2

Asher Williams, Kamil S. Gedeon, Deepika Vaidyanathan, Yanlei Yu, Cynthia H. Collins, Jonathan S. Dordick, Robert J. Linhardt, Mattheos A.G. Koffas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Heparosan is the unsulfated precursor of heparin and heparan sulfate and its synthesis is typically the first step in the production of bioengineered heparin. In addition to its utility as the starting material for this important anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory drug, heparosan is a versatile compound that possesses suitable chemical and physical properties for making a variety of high-quality tissue engineering biomaterials, gels and scaffolds, as well as serving as a drug delivery vehicle. The selected production host was the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus megaterium, which represents an increasingly used choice for high-yield production of intra- A nd extracellular biomolecules for scientific and industrial applications. Results: We have engineered the metabolism of B. megaterium to produce heparosan, using a T7 RNA polymerase (T7 RNAP) expression system. This system, which allows tightly regulated and efficient induction of genes of interest, has been co-opted for control of Pasteurella multocida heparosan synthase (PmHS2). Specifically, we show that B. megaterium MS941 cells co-transformed with pT7-RNAP and pPT7-PmHS2 plasmids are capable of producing heparosan upon induction with xylose, providing an alternate, safe source of heparosan. Productivities of ~ 250 mg/L of heparosan in shake flasks and ~ 2.74 g/L in fed-batch cultivation were reached. The polydisperse Pasteurella heparosan synthase products from B. megaterium primarily consisted of a relatively high molecular weight (MW) heparosan (~ 200-300 kD) that may be appropriate for producing certain biomaterials; while the less abundant lower MW heparosan fractions (~ 10-40 kD) can be a suitable starting material for heparin synthesis. Conclusion: We have successfully engineered an asporogenic and non-pathogenic B. megaterium host strain to produce heparosan for various applications, through a combination of genetic manipulation and growth optimization strategies. The heparosan products from B. megaterium display a different range of MW products than traditional E. coli K5 products, diversifying its potential applications and facilitating increased product utility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacillus megaterium
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Heparosan
  • Heparosan synthase
  • Metabolic engineering


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