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Engineering a microbial biosynthesis platform for de novo production of tropane alkaloids

Tropane alkaloids (TAs) are a class of phytochemicals produced by plants of the nightshade family used for treating diverse neurological disorders. Here, we demonstrate de novo production of tropine, a key intermediate in the biosynthetic pathway of medicinal TAs such as scopolamine, from simple carbon and nitrogen sources in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Our engineered strain incorporates 15 additional genes, including 11 derived from diverse plants and bacteria, and 7 disruptions to yeast regulatory or biosynthetic proteins to produce tropine at titers of 6 mg/L. We also demonstrate the utility of our engineered yeast platform for the discovery of TA derivatives by combining biosynthetic modules from distant plant lineages to achieve de novo production of cinnamoyltropine, a non-canonical TA. Our engineered strain constitutes a starting point for future optimization efforts towards realizing industrial fermentation of medicinal TAs and a platform for the synthesis of TA derivatives with enhanced bioactivities.

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3634 (2019)

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