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1.  Evident and latent plasticity across the rice diterpene synthase family with potential implications for the evolution of diterpenoid metabolism in the cereals 
The Biochemical journal  2011;435(3):589-595.
The evolution of natural products biosynthetic pathways can be envisioned to occur via a number of mechanisms. Here we provide evidence that latent plasticity plays a role in such metabolic evolution. In particular, rice (Oryza sativa) produces both ent- and syn-copalyl diphosphate (CPP), which are substrates for downstream diterpene synthases. Here we report that several members of this enzymatic family exhibit dual reactivity with some pairing of ent-, syn-, or normal CPP stereochemistry. Evident plasticity was observed, as a previously reported ent-sandaracopimaradiene synthase also converts syn-CPP to syn-labda-8(17),12E,14-triene, which can be found in planta. Notably, normal CPP is not naturally found in rice. Thus, the presence of diterpene synthases that react with this non-native metabolite reveals latent enzymatic/metabolic plasticity, providing biochemical capacity for utilization of such a novel substrate (i.e., normal CPP) that may arise during evolution, the implications of which are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3723722  PMID: 21323642
Metabolic evolution; terpenoid natural products; terpene synthases; substrate specificity; phytoalexins
2.  Increasing diterpene yield with a modular metabolic engineering system in E. coli: comparison of MEV and MEP isoprenoid precursor pathway engineering 
Engineering biosynthetic pathways in heterologous microbial host organisms offers an elegant approach to pathway elucidation via the incorporation of putative biosynthetic enzymes and characterization of resulting novel metabolites. Our previous work in Escherichia coli demonstrated the feasibility of a facile modular approach to engineering the production of labdane-related diterpene (20 carbon) natural products. However, yield was limited (<0.1 mg/L), presumably due to reliance on endogenous production of the isoprenoid precursors dimethylallyl diphosphate and isopentenyl diphosphate. Here, we report incorporation of either a heterologous mevalonate pathway (MEV) or enhancement of the endogenous methyl erythritol phosphate pathway (MEP) with our modular metabolic engineering system. With MEP pathway enhancement, it was found that pyruvate supplementation of rich media and simultaneous overexpression of three genes (idi, dxs, and dxr) resulted in the greatest increase in diterpene yield, indicating distributed metabolic control within this pathway. Incorporation of a heterologous MEV pathway in bioreactor grown cultures resulted in significantly higher yields than MEP pathway enhancement. We have established suitable growth conditions for diterpene production levels ranging from 10 to >100 mg/L of E. coli culture. These amounts are sufficient for nuclear magnetic resonance analyses, enabling characterization of enzymatic products and hence, pathway elucidation. Furthermore, these results represent an up to >1,000-fold improvement in diterpene production from our facile, modular platform, with MEP pathway enhancement offering a cost effective alternative with reasonable yield. Finally, we reiterate here that this modular approach is expandable and should be easily adaptable to the production of any terpenoid natural product.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-009-2219-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2811251  PMID: 19777230
Terpenoid; Natural products biosynthesis; Metabolic engineering; Isoprenoid

Results 1-2 (2)