The invention provides isolated nucleic acids molecules which encode pyruvate decarboxylase enzymes having improved decarboxylase activity, substrate affinity, thermostability, and activity at different pH. The nucleic acids of the invention also have a codon usage which allows for high expression in a variety of host cells. Accordingly, the invention provides recombinant expression vectors containing such nucleic acid molecules, recombinant host cells comprising the expression vectors, host cells further comprising other ethanologenic enzymes, and methods for producing useful substances, e.g., acetaldehyde and ethanol, using such host cells.
GOVERNMENT SPONSORED RESEARCH
 This work was supported, in part, by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (ZDH-9-29009-04), Energy Biosciences Program (FG02-96ER20222), and the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.