Biosynthesis of polycyclopropanated high energy biofuels
Cyclopropane-functionalized hydrocarbons are excellent fuels due their high energy density. However, the organic synthesis of these molecules is challenging. In this work, we produced polycyclopropanated fatty acids in bacteria. These molecules can be converted into renewable fuels for energy-demanding applications such as shipping, long-haul transport, aviation, and rocketry. We explored the chemical diversity encoded in thousands of bacterial genomes to identify and repurpose naturally occurring cyclopropanated molecules. We identified a set of candidate iterative polyketide synthases (iPKSs) predicted to produce polycyclopropanated fatty acids (POP-FAs), expressed them in Streptomyces coelicolor, and produced POP-FAs. We determined the structure of the molecules and increased their production 22-fold. Finally, we produced polycyclopropanated fatty acid methyl esters (POP-FAMEs). Our POP fuel candidates can have net heating values of more than 50 MJ/L. Our research shows that the POP-FAMEs and other POPs have the energetic properties for energy-demanding applications for which sustainable alternatives are scarce.