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Production of the Antimalarial Drug Precursor Artemisinic Acid in Engineered Yeast. By J.D. Keasling et all. February 12, 2007 Patrick Gildea. In A Nutshell.

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production of the antimalarial drug precursor artemisinic acid in engineered yeast

Production of the Antimalarial Drug Precursor Artemisinic Acid in Engineered Yeast

By J.D. Keasling et all.

February 12, 2007

Patrick Gildea

in a nutshell
In A Nutshell
  • Metabolic Engineering – The alteration of metabolic pathways found in an organism in order to understand/utilize cellular pathways for chemical transformation, energy transduction, supramolecular assembly
    • Antibiotics
    • Biosynthetic precursors
    • polymers
  • Diseases like diabetes treated via recombinant proteins
  • However, protein therapeutic approaches have not been applicable for infectious diseases
  • Synthetic chemistry is far too expensive and inefficient

The structure of insulin

design concept of the engineered biological system
Design Concept of the Engineered Biological System
  • Overall Goal: engineer a microorganism to produce artemisinin from an inexpensive, renewable resource
  • Find & clone (or synthesize) the genes that produce the precursor artemisinic acid in Artemisia annua leaves
  • Identify the chemistry of the enzyme reactions
  • Express genes of different organisms in a host (difficult)
  • Balance metabolic pathways to optimize production
  • Well characterized genetic control system
    • Chassis (stable)
    • Parts
    • Metabolic Engineering Tools
key elements of the metabolic pathway in yeast
Key Elements of the Metabolic Pathway in Yeast
  • Artemisinic acid in yeast is produced in 3 steps in the metabolic pathway
  • Modifications to host strain (expression vector) via chromosomal integration (ensure genetic stability)
  • Yeast is used as the chassis because the codon usage between yeast and A. Annua are very similar

Process for the microbial production of artemisinic acid in the biosynthetic pathway in S. cerevisiae strain EPY224

Starting from acetyl-CoA the microbes produce: mevalonate, farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP), amorphadiene, and finally, artemisinic acid


The follow up synthesis procedures for after artemisinic acid is purified and converted into artemisinin via chemical conversions for artemisinin-based combination therapies

  • Through modifying the pathway in yeast through adjusting the expression of specific genes in the pathway, production was increased
  • Native metabolic intermediates can be toxic at high concentrations
  • “Pulling” on a pathway is just as important as “pushing”
  • DNA arrays and proteomics
  • Library-based engineering of intergenic regions of operons

Production of amorphadiene by S. cerevisiae strains

optimization contd
Optimization Contd.
  • Functional genomics analyzes the dynamic aspects such as gene transcription, translation, and protein-protein interactions in cells
how big of a deal is this
How Big of a Deal is this?
  • Metabolic Engineering – 1970-80’s
  • For synthetic biology, production of artemisinic acid in yeast and E. Coli is the “poster child” for cheaper drugs
  • Difficult to synthesize and expensive molecules can be manufactured cheaply via synthetic biology
  • Enzymes can catalyze in a single step what might take many steps using synthetic chemistry (expensive and difficult)
  • Coupling multiple enzymes in a metabolic pathway, purification of chemical intermediates are not necessary before proceeding to the next reaction.

End result?

Pockets are much lighter as well as a curative for malaria

artemsinic acid in yeast particularly novel you bet
Artemsinic Acid in Yeast Particularly Novel? You Bet!
  • A biological system that can convert cheap resources (i.e. glucose) into a high quality precursor of artemisinic acid
  • Use of a host that is easily obtainable and cheap to maintain as a microbial chassis
  • The critical idea is the use of enzymes to catalyze complex molecules in a number of small steps
integration of existing parts
Integration of Existing Parts?
  • Genes for producing artemisinic acid (A.A.) from sweet wormwood
  • Stable chassis that is modified to produce high yields of A.A. (yeast)
  • Modification/adjustment of metabolic pathway for high yields
science relevant
Science: Relevant?
  • Principles of metabolic engineering applicable toward synthetic biology
  • Possible to use intracellular metabolites for the production of chemicals from simple starting materials (i.e. glucose)
  • Possible to insert the gene for making a complex molecule into a different organism where the gene will successfully be expressed
  • Understanding of how different genes from different organisms can affect metabolic system of host organism
technology applicable
Technology: Applicable?
  • Applicable in the industrial setting
  • Well-characterized biological parts
    • Cytochrome P450’s, etc.
  • Methodology for optimization of the mevalonate pathway can be applied for other processes
  • Enzymes are powerful!
  • Library-based engineering/functional genomics
    • CAD and debugging tools aid biological design
outlook for vgem team
Outlook for VGEM Team
  • The tools and techniques used in synthetic biology for metabolic engineering are similar to other tools/techniques for other components (cells, circuits)
    • Chassis
    • Vectors
    • Promoters
    • Simultaneous engagement of multiple genes
    • CAD and debugging
what is impossible possible
What is Impossible/Possible
  • Impossible:
    • Trip to Amazon to find cool genes in some obscure plant that produce molecules that suppress cancer or something along those lines
  • Possible:
    • In literature: find a gene that manufactures a complex molecule and determine whether the codon usage of the genes and a host are compatible
    • Insert the genes via a vector and adjust the expression levels of the genes via promoters
    • Tweak the system in different ways to maximize the production of target chemical by using tools such as functional genomics, etc.
    • However, even without the Amazon trip – this will be expensive
  • Jay D. Keasling
    • Resource for research into the production of artemisinic acid