Acrylic acid might become an important target for fermentative production from sugars on bulk industrial scale, as an alternative to its current production from petrochemicals. Metabolic engineering approaches will be required to develop a host microorganism that may enable such a fermentation process. Hypothetical metabolic pathways for insertion into a host organism are discussed. The pathway should have plausible mass and redox balances, plausible biochemistry, and plausible energetics, while giving the theoretically maximum yield of acrylate on glucose without the use of aeration or added electron acceptors. Candidate metabolic pathways that might lead to the theoretically maximum yield proceed via beta-alanine, methylcitrate, or methylmalonate-CoA. The energetics and enzymology of these pathways, including product excretion, should be studied in more detail to confirm this. Expression of the selected pathway in a host organism will require extensive genetic engineering. A 100,000-tons/year fermentation process for acrylic acid production, including product recovery, was conceptually designed based on the supposition that an efficient host organism for acrylic acid production can indeed be developed. The designed process is economically competitive when compared to the current petrochemical process for acrylic acid. Although the designed process is highly speculative, it provides a clear incentive for development of the required microbial host, especially considering the environmental sustainability of the designed process.
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