BackgroundTo support the sustainability of biodiesel production, by-products, such as crude glycerol, should be converted into high-value chemical products. 1,2-propanediol (1,2-PDO) has been widely used as a building block in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Recently, the microbial bioconversion of lactic acid into 1,2-PDO is attracting attention to overcome limitations of previous biosynthetic pathways for production of 1,2-PDO. In this study, we examined the effect of genetic engineering, metabolic engineering, and control of bioprocess factors on the production of 1,2-PDO from lactic acid by K. pneumoniae GEM167 with flux enhancement of the oxidative pathway, using glycerol as carbon source.ResultsWe developed K. pneumoniae GEM167 Delta adhE/pBR-1,2PDO, a novel bacterial strain that has blockage of ethanol biosynthesis and biosynthesized 1,2-PDO from lactic acid when glycerol is carbon source. Increasing the agitation speed from 200 to 400 rpm not only increased 1,2-PDO production by 2.24-fold to 731.0 +/- 24.7 mg/L at 48 h but also increased the amount of a by-product, 2,3-butanediol. We attempted to inhibit 2,3-butanediol biosynthesis using the approaches of pH control and metabolic engineering. Control of pH at 7.0 successfully increased 1,2-PDO production (1016.5 +/- 37.3 mg/L at 48 h), but the metabolic engineering approach was not successful. The plasmid in this strain maintained 100% stability for 72 h.ConclusionsThis study is the first to report the biosynthesis of 1,2-PDO from lactic acid in K. pneumoniae when glycerol was carbon source. The 1,2-PDO production was enhanced by blocking the synthesis of 2,3-butanediol through pH control. Our results indicate that K. pneumoniae GEM167 has potential for the production of additional valuable chemical products from metabolites produced through oxidative pathways.