Engineering yeast for the screening and sustainable production of high-value pharmaceutical and pesticidal triterpenoids

01 October 2015 → 30 September 2018
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Biochemistry and metabolism not elsewhere classified
    • Microbiology not elsewhere classified
    • Plant biochemistry
  • Engineering and technology
    • Other biotechnology, bio-engineering and biosystem engineering not elsewhere classified
Project description

Plants produce a variety of specialized metabolites to defend themselves against stress. These compounds have interesting biological activities for human applications. The triterpenoids are a class of specialized terpene compounds with wide structural variety. These biologically active compounds have applications as pesticides, surfactants, preservatives, adjuvants and drugs. Their commercial availability is limited by the low amounts in which they are produced by the plant and by the complexity of their chemical synthesis. Previously, the feasibility of engineering Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the production of natural and novel triterpenoids was demonstrated. In this project, S. cerevisiae will be further engineered for high-titre optimized production of triterpenoids. For this a unique combination of protein engineering and transcriptomics-guided metabolic engineering strategies will be used. In addition it is necessary to fasten the process of identifying biologically active compounds produced in yeast. Hence, two independent biosensors will be developed for the detection of triterpenoids with antiinflammatory and/or insecticidal activities. Finally, these biosensors will be used in the engineered production chassis to screen combinatorial gene libraries, in order to identify combinations of heterologous genes that lead to the synthesis of novel biologically active triterpenoids with commercialization potential.