Creating Yeast That Can Produce Fragrant Oils

Greg Howard
2nd May, 2024

Creating Yeast That Can Produce Fragrant Oils

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Scientists at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics genetically engineered red yeast to produce terpenoids
  • The modified yeast successfully created α-terpineol, a fragrant compound with potential health benefits
  • The yeast also produced α-farnesene and β-ionone, used in medicine and for their scent, respectively
Terpenoids are a large and diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals that have a wide range of applications in our daily lives. They are found in many plants and are responsible for the fragrance of flowers, the taste of fruits, and they even have medicinal properties. However, extracting these compounds from plants can be inefficient and environmentally taxing. The chemical synthesis of terpenoids is also challenging, often involving complex processes that are costly and yield small amounts of the desired product. This is where synthetic biology offers a groundbreaking solution by using microorganisms as tiny factories to produce terpenoids in a more sustainable and efficient way. Recent research from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS[1], has shown that the red yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa can be genetically engineered to produce high-value terpenoids. This yeast, known for its natural ability to produce carotenoids and lipids, has a strong internal pathway for producing isoprene, the building block for terpenoids. By manipulating this pathway, scientists have been able to turn R. mucilaginosa into a cell factory for producing specific terpenoids. One of the terpenoids produced in this study is α-terpineol, a compound with a pleasant scent and potential therapeutic uses. The researchers achieved this by introducing a gene from the grape variety Vitis vinifera, which is known to naturally produce α-terpineol and other aroma compounds[2]. By overexpressing a key gene in the yeast's mevalonate (MVA) pathway, which is crucial for terpenoid synthesis, the production of α-terpineol was boosted to 0.39 mg/L. Another significant achievement of the study was the production of α-farnesene, a compound with applications in medicine and bioenergy. This was accomplished by inserting a gene from the apple variety Malus domestica into the yeast, which led to an impressive 822 mg/L of α-farnesene. This result is particularly notable when compared to previous efforts using another yeast species, Yarrowia lipolytica, which required extensive genetic library construction to achieve a similar terpenoid titer[3]. The study also produced β-ionone, a breakdown product of carotenoids with a violet-like scent, by expressing a gene from Petunia hybrida. The production titer was 0.87 mg/L, demonstrating the versatility of R. mucilaginosa as a host for producing a variety of terpenoids. These findings are significant for several reasons. First, they demonstrate that R. mucilaginosa can be a potent platform for terpenoid biosynthesis. The yeast's natural metabolic capabilities can be harnessed and enhanced through genetic engineering. Second, the study shows that by understanding and manipulating the MVA pathway, it is possible to significantly increase the production of desired terpenoids. This is a promising development for industries that rely on these compounds. The research builds upon earlier studies that have explored the potential of microorganisms as sources of terpenoids. For instance, efforts to improve artemisinin production in Artemisia annua and its heterologous production in yeast and other plants have set the stage for the type of metabolic engineering applied in the current study[4]. The advances in producing artemisinic acid, a precursor to artemisinin, in yeast through fermentation process optimization, parallel the methods used to enhance terpenoid production in R. mucilaginosa. In conclusion, the study from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS, marks a step forward in the field of synthetic biology for the production of terpenoids. By leveraging the natural metabolic pathways of R. mucilaginosa and applying genetic engineering techniques, researchers have opened the door to more sustainable and efficient methods for producing these valuable compounds. This not only has implications for the various industries that use terpenoids but also contributes to the broader efforts of using biotechnology to meet global demands for natural products in an environmentally conscious way.



Main Study

1) Engineering a non-model yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa for terpenoids synthesis.

Published 1st May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Identification of Vitis vinifera (-)-alpha-terpineol synthase by in silico screening of full-length cDNA ESTs and functional characterization of recombinant terpene synthase.

Journal: Phytochemistry, Issue: Vol 65, Issue 9, May 2004

3) Engineering the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica for production of α-farnesene.

4) From Plant to Yeast-Advances in Biosynthesis of Artemisinin.

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