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.
Metabolic evolution; terpenoid natural products; terpene synthases; substrate specificity; phytoalexins
Mechanistic proposals for the carbocation cas cade reaction leading to the tricyclic sesquiterpene pentalenene are assessed in light of the results of isotopically sensitive branching experiments with the H309A mutant of pentalenene synthase. These experimental results support a mechanism for pentalenene formation involving a 7-protoilludyl cation intermediate that was first predicted using quantum chemical calculations.
terpene; kinetic isotope effect; quantum chemical calculations; carbocation; reaction mechanism; natural product biosynthesis
Class II diterpene cyclases catalyze bicyclization of geranylgeranyl diphosphate. While this reaction typically is terminated via methyl deprotonation to yield copalyl diphosphate, in rare cases hydroxylated bicycles are produced instead. Abietadiene synthase is a bifunctional diterpene cyclase that usually produces a copalyl diphosphate intermediate. Here it is shown that substitution of aspartate for a conserved histidine in the class II active site of abietadiene synthase leads to selective production of 8α-hydroxy-CPP instead, demonstrating striking plasticity.
Two of the most agriculturally important cereal crop plants are wheat (Triticum aestivum) and rice (Oryza sativa). Rice has been shown to produce a number of diterpenoid natural products as phytoalexins and/or allelochemicals – specifically, labdane-related diterpenoids, whose biosynthesis proceeds via formation of an eponymous labdadienyl/copalyl diphosphate (CPP) intermediate (e.g., the ent-CPP of gibberellin phytohormone biosynthesis). Similar to rice, wheat encodes a number of CPP synthases (CPS), and the three CPS characterized to date (TaCPS1,2,&3) all have been suggested to produce ent-CPP. However, several of the downstream diterpene synthases will only react with CPP intermediate of normal or syn, but not ent, stereochemistry, as described in the accompanying report. Investigation of additional CPS did not resolve this issue, as the only other functional synthase (TaCPS4) also produced ent-CPP. Chiral product characterization of all the TaCPS then revealed that TaCPS2 uniquely produces normal, rather than ent-, CPP; thus, providing a suitable substrate source for the downstream diterpene synthases. Notably, TaCPS2 is most homologous to the similarly stereochemically differentiated syn-CPP synthase from rice (OsCPS4), while the non-inducible TaCPS3 and TaCPS4 cluster with the rice OsCPS1 required for gibberellin phytohormone biosynthesis, as well as with a barley (Hordeum vulgare) CPS (HvCPS1) that also is characterized here as similarly producing ent-CPP. These results suggest that diversification of labdane-related diterpenoid metabolism beyond the ancestral gibberellins occurred early in cereal evolution, and included the type of stereochemical variation demonstrated here.
Oryza sativa; Triticum aestivum; Hordeum vulgare; copalyl diphosphate synthase
Wheat (Triticum aestivum) and rice (Oryza sativa) are two of the most agriculturally important cereal crop plants. Rice is known to produce numerous diterpenoid natural products that serve as phytoalexins and/or allelochemicals. Specifically, these are labdane-related diterpenoids, derived from a characteristic labdadienyl/copalyl diphosphate (CPP), whose biosynthetic relationship to gibberellin biosynthesis is evident from the relevant expanded and functionally diverse family of ent-kaurene synthase-like (KSL) genes found in rice (OsKSL). Here we report biochemical characterization of a similarly expansive family of KSL from wheat (the TaKSLs). In particular, beyond ent-kaurene synthases (KS), wheat also contains several biochemically diversified KSLs. These react either with the ent-CPP intermediate common to gibberellin biosynthesis or with the normal stereoisomer of CPP that also is found in wheat (as demonstrated by the accompanying description of wheat CPP synthases). Comparison with a barley (Hordeum vulgare) KS indicates conservation of monocot KS, with early and continued expansion and functional diversification of KSLs in at least the small grain cereals. In addition, some of the TaKSLs that utilize normal CPP also will react with syn-CPP, echoing previous findings with the OsKSL family, with such enzymatic promiscuity/plasticity providing insight into the continuing evolution of diterpenoid metabolism in the cereal crop plant family, as well as more generally, which is discussed here.
ent-kaurene synthase; phytoalexin; phytoanticipin; allelochemicals; natural products biosynthesis; plant defense
Terpenoid metabolites are important to the cellular function, structural integrity, and pathogenesis of the human-specific pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Genetic and biochemical investigations have indicated a role for the diterpenoid isotuberculosinol (isoTb) early in the infection process. There are only two genes (Rv3377c and Rv3378c) required for production of isoTb, yet these are found in what appears to be a five-gene terpenoid/isoprenoid biosynthetic operon. Of the three remaining genes (Rv3379c, Rv3382c, and Rv3383c), previous work has indicated that Rv3379c is an inactive pseudo-gene. Here we demonstrate that Rv3382c and Rv3383c encode biochemically redundant machinery for isoprenoid metabolism, encoding a functional 4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate reductase (LytB) for isoprenoid precursor production and a geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) synthase, respectively, for which the Mtb genome contains other functional isozymes (Rv1110 and Rv0562, respectively). These results complete the characterization of the isoTb biosynthetic operon, as well as further elucidating isoprenoid metabolism in Mtb. In addition, we have investigated the evolutionary origin of this operon, revealing Mtb-specific conservation of the diterpene synthase genes responsible for isoTb biosynthesis, which supports our previously advanced hypothesis that isoTb acts as a human-specific pathogenic metabolite and is consistent with the human host specificity of Mtb. Intriguingly, our results revealed that many mycobacteria contain orthologs for both Rv3383c and Rv0562, suggesting a potentially important role for these functionally redundant GGPP synthases in the evolution of terpenoid/isoprenoid metabolism in the mycobacteria.
isoprenoid biosynthesis; molecular evolution; virulence; terpenoids
The complexity of terpenoid natural products has drawn significant interest, particularly since their common (poly)isoprenyl origins were discovered. Notably, much of this complexity is derived from the highly variable cyclized and/or rearranged nature of the observed hydrocarbon skeletal structures. Indeed, at least in some cases it is difficult to immediately recognize their derivation from poly-isoprenyl precursors. Nevertheless, these diverse structures are formed by sequential elongation to acyclic precursors, most often with subsequent cyclization and/or rearrangement. Strikingly, the reactions used to assemble and diversify terpenoid backbones share a common carbocationic driven mechanism, although the means by which the initial carbocation is generated does vary. High-resolution crystal structures have been obtained for at least representative examples from each of the various types of enzymes involved in producing terpenoid hydrocarbon backbones. However, while this has certainly led to some insights into the enzymatic structure–function relationships underlying the elongation and simpler cyclization reactions, our understanding of the more complex cyclization and/or rearrangement reactions remains limited. Accordingly, selected examples are discussed here to demonstrate our current understanding, its limits, and potential ways forward.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) has a highly complex cell wall, which is required for both bacterial survival and infection. Cell wall biosynthesis is dependent on decaprenyl diphosphate as a glyco-carrier, which is hence an essential metabolite in this pathogen. Previous biochemical studies indicated (E)-geranyl diphosphate (GPP) is required for the synthesis of decaprenyl diphosphate. Here we demonstrate that Rv0989c encodes the “missing” GPP synthase, representing the first such enzyme to be characterized from bacteria, and which presumably is involved in decaprenyl diphosphate biosynthesis in Mtb. Our investigation also has revealed previously unrecognized substrate plasticity of the farnesyl diphosphate synthases from Mtb, resolving previous discrepancies between biochemical and genetic studies of cell wall biosynthesis.
Polyisoprenyl phosphates; Terpene Biosynthesis; Tuberculosis; Cell Wall biosynthesis; Genetic fitness
In his original exposition of the biogenetic isoprenoid rule, L. Ruzicka noted the structural identity between the fused A/B rings of triterpenoids/sterols and certain multicyclic diterpenoids as part of the impetus leading to that profound insight. His prescient hypothesis that this chemical structure relationship reflects similarities in the initial cyclization of these diterpenoids with that occurring in triterpenoid biosynthesis has since been verified. However, this chemical structure relationship does not continue to hold true for the additional rings found in many of these di- and tri- terpenoid natural products. This is now appreciated to arise from differences in their subsequent biogenesis, specifically further cyclization and/or rearrangement of these diterpenoids after formation of an initial bicyclic intermediate in a separately catalyzed reaction. The trivial name for the hydrocarbon skeleton of the most commonly found version of the corresponding unique intermediate forms the basis for a unifying “labdane-related” designation. This defines a large super-family of diterpenoids that contains nearly 7,000 already known natural products. Many of these are found in plants, where the requisite biosynthetic machinery for gibberellin phytohormones, particularly the relevant diterpene cyclases, provides a biosynthetic reservoir that appears to have been repeatedly drawn upon to evolve new labdane-related diterpenoids. The potent biological activity of the “ancestral” gibberellins, which has led to the independent evolution of distinct gibberellin biosynthetic pathways in plants, fungi, and bacteria, is further discussed as an archetypical example of the selective pressure driving the observed diversification of the large super-family of labdane-related diterpenoid natural products.
Rice (Oryza sativa) produces momilactone diterpenoids as both phytoalexins and allelochemicals. Strikingly, the rice genome contains a biosynthetic gene cluster for momilactone production, located on rice chromosome 4, which contains two cytochromes P450 mono-oxygenases, CYP99A2 and CYP99A3, with undefined roles; although it has been previously shown that RNAi double knock-down of this pair of closely related CYP reduced momilactone accumulation. Here we attempted biochemical characterization of CYP99A2 and CYP99A3, which ultimately was achieved by complete gene recoding, enabling functional recombinant expression in bacteria. With these synthetic gene constructs it was possible to demonstrate that, while CYP99A2 does not exhibit significant activity with diterpene substrates, CYP99A3 catalyzes consecutive oxidations of the C19 methyl group of the momilactone precursor syn-pimara-7,15-diene to form, sequentially, syn-pimaradien-19-ol, syn-pimaradien-19-al and syn-pimaradien-19-oic acid. These are presumably intermediates in momilactone biosynthesis, as a C19 carboxylic acid moiety is required for formation of the core 19,6-γ-lactone ring structure. We further were able to detect syn-pimaradien-19-oic acid in rice plants, which indicates physiological relevance for the observed activity of CYP99A3. In addition, we found that CYP99A3 also oxidized syn-stemod-13(17)-ene at C19 to produce, sequentially, syn-stemoden-19-ol, syn-stemoden-19-al and syn-stemoden-19-oic acid, albeit with lower catalytic efficiency than with syn-pimaradiene. Although the CYP99A3 syn-stemodene derived products were not detected in planta, these results nevertheless provide a hint at the currently unknown metabolic fate of this diterpene in rice. Regardless of any wider role, our results strongly indicate that CYP99A3 acts as a multifunctional diterpene oxidase in momilactone biosynthesis.
cytochrome P450; biosynthetic gene cluster; diterpenoid metabolism; natural products; phytoalexin; momilactone
Terpene synthases catalyze complex reactions, often forming multiple chiral centers in cyclized olefin products from acyclic allylic diphosphate precursors, yet have been suggested to exert little control over the actual reaction, instead largely serving as inert templates. However, recent results highlight stereoelectronic effects exerted by these enzymes. Perhaps not surprisingly, the pyrophosphate co-product released in the initiating and rate-limiting chemical step provides an obvious counter-ion that may drive carbocation migration towards itself. This is emphasized by the striking effects of a recently uncovered single residue switch for diterpene synthase product outcome, whereby substitution of hydroxyl residues for particular aliphatic residues has been shown to be sufficient to “short-circuit” complex cyclization and/or rearrangement reactions, with the converse change further found to be sufficient to increase reaction complexity. The mechanistic hypothesis for the observed effects is hydroxyl dipole stabilization of the specific carbocation formed by initial cyclization, enabling deprotonation of this early intermediate, whereas the lack of such stabilization (i.e. with an aliphatic side chain) leads to carbocation migration towards the pyrophosphate co-product, resulting in a more complex reaction. This is further consistent with the greater synergy exhibited between pyrophosphate and aza-analogs of late, relative to early, stage carbocation intermediates, and crystallographic analysis of the monoterpene cyclase bornyl diphosphate synthase wherein mechanistically non-relevant counter-ion pairing between aza-analogs of early stage carbocation intermediates and pyrophosphate is observed. Thus, (di)terpene synthases seem to mediate specific reaction outcomes, at least in part, by providing stereoelectronic effects to counteract those exerted by the pyrophosphate co-product.
The secondary ent-beyeran-16-yl carbocation (7) is a key branch point intermediate in mechanistic schemes to rationalize the cyclic structures of many tetra- and pentacyclic diterpenes including ent-beyerene, ent-kaurene, ent-trachylobane, and ent-atiserene, presumed precursors to > 1,000 known diterpenes. (Scheme 1) To evaluate these mechanistic hypotheses, we synthesized the heterocyclic analogues, 16-aza-ent-beyerane (12) and 16-aza-ent-trachylobane (13), by means of Hg(II)- and Pb(IV)-induced cyclizations onto the Δ12 double bonds of tricyclic intermediates bearing carbamoylmethyl and aminomethyl groups at C-8. The 13,16-seco 16-nor carbamate (20a) was obtained from ent-beyeran-16-one oxime (17) by Beckmann fragmentation, hydrolysis, and Curtius rearrangement. The aza analogues inhibited recombinant ent-kaurene synthase from Arabidopsis thaliana (GST-rAtKS) with inhibition constants (IC = 1 × 10 −7 and 1 × 10−6 50 M) similar in magnitude to the pseudo-binding constant of the bicyclic ent-copalyl diphosphate substrate (Km = 3 × 10−7 M). Large enhancements of binding affinities (IC50 = 4 × 10−9 and 2 × 10−8 M) were observed in the presence of 1 mM pyrophosphate which is consistent with a tightly bound ent-beyeranyl+/pyrophosphate− ion pair intermediate in the cyclization-rearrangement catalyzed by this diterpene synthase. The weak inhibition (IC50 = 1 × 10−5 M) exhibited by ent-beyeran-16 exo-yl diphosphate (11), and its failure to undergo bridge rearrangement to kaurene, appear to rule out the covalent diphosphate as a free intermediate. 16-Aza-ent-beyerane is proposed as an effective mimic for the ent-beyeran-16-yl carbocation with potential applications as an active site probe for the various ent- diterpene cyclases, and as a novel, selective inhibitor of gibberellin biosynthesis in plants.
A role for specific natural products in directly mediating antagonistic plant–plant interactions –that is, allelopathy –has been controversial. If proven, such phenomena would hold considerable promise for agronomic improvement of staple food crops such as rice (Oryza sativa).However, while substantiated by the presence of phytotoxic compounds at potentially relevant levels, demonstrating a direct role for specific natural products in allelopathy has been difficult due to the chemical complexity of root and plant litter exudates. This complexity can be bypassed via selective genetic manipulation to ablate production of putative allelopathic compounds, but such an approach previously has not been applied.The rice diterpenoid momilactones provide an example of natural products for which correlative biochemical evidence has been obtained for a role in allelopathy. Here, we apply reverse genetics, using knock-outs of the relevant diterpene synthases (OsCPS4 and OsKSL4), to demonstrate that rice momilactones are involved in allelopathy, including suppressing growth of the widespread rice paddy weed, barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli).Thus, our results not only provide novel genetic evidence for natural product mediated allelopathy, but also furnish a molecular target for breeding and metabolic engineering of this important crop plant.
allelopathy; biosynthetic gene cluster; diterpenoids; momilactones; rice (Oryza sativa); weed suppression
The extensive family of plant terpene synthases (TPSs) generally has a bi-domain structure, yet phylogenetic analyses consistently indicate that these evolved from larger diterpene synthases. In particular, that duplication of the diterpene synthase genes required for gibberellin phytohormone biosynthesis provided an early predecessor, whose loss of a ~220 amino acid “internal sequence element” (now recognized as the γ domain) gave rise to the precursor of modern mono- and sesqui-TPSs found in all higher plants. Intriguingly, TPSs are conserved by taxonomic relationships rather than function, demonstrating that such functional radiation has occurred both repeatedly and relatively recently, yet phylogenetic analyses assume that “internal/γ” domain loss represents a single evolutionary event. Here we provide evidence that such loss was not a singular event, but rather has occurred multiple times. Specifically, we provide an example of a bi-domain diterpene synthase, from Salvia miltiorrhiza, along with a sesquiterpene synthase from Triticum aestivum (wheat) that is not only closely related to diterpene synthases, but retains the ent-kaurene synthase activity relevant to the ancestral gibberellin metabolic function. Indeed, while the wheat sesquiterpene synthase clearly no longer contains the “internal/γ” domain, it is closely related to rice diterpene synthase genes that retain the ancestral tri-domain structure. Thus, these findings provide examples of key evolutionary intermediates underlying the bi-domain structure observed in the expansive plant TPS gene family, as well as indicating that “internal/γ” domain loss has independently occurred multiple times, highlighting the complex evolutionary history of this important enzymatic family.
Rice (Oryza sativa) contains a biosynthetic gene cluster associated with production of at least two groups of diterpenoid phytoalexins, the antifungal phytocassanes and antibacterial oryzalides. While cytochromes P450 (CYP) from this cluster are known to be involved in phytocassane production, such mono-oxygenase activity relevant to oryzalide biosynthesis was unknown. Here we report biochemical characterization demonstrating that CYP71Z6 from this cluster acts as an ent-isokaurene C2-hydroxylase that is presumably involved in the biosynthesis of oryzalides. Our results further suggest that the closely related and co-clustered CYP71Z7 likely acts as a C2-hydroxylase involved in a latter step of phytocassane biosynthesis. Thus, CYP71Z6 & 7 appear to have evolved distinct roles in rice diterpenoid metabolism, offering insight into plant biosynthetic gene cluster evolution.
Cytochromes P450; terpenoid metabolism; genome organization; phytoalexin biosynthesis
Natural products; Terpenoids; Enzymes; Terpene synthases; Diterpene cyclases
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is the causative agent of the human disease Tuberculosis, and remains a worldwide health threat responsible for ~1.7 million deaths annually. During infection, Mtb prevents acidification of the engulfing phagosome, thus blocking endocytic progression and eventually leading to stable residence. The diterpenoid metabolite isotuberculosinol (isoTb) exhibits biological activity indicative of a role in this early arrest of phagosome maturation. Presumably, isoTb production should be induced by phagosomal entry. However, the relevant enzymatic genes are not transcriptionally upregulated during engulfment. Previous examination of the initial biosynthetic enzyme (Rv3377c/MtHPS) involved in isoTb biosynthesis revealed striking inhibition by its Mg2+ co-factor, leading to the hypothesis that the depletion of Mg2+ observed upon phagosomal engulfment may act to trigger isoTb biosynthesis. While Mtb is typically grown in relatively high levels of Mg2+ (0.43 mM), shifting Mtb to media with phagosomal levels (0.1 mM) led to a significant (~10-fold) increase in accumulation of the MtHPS product, halimadienyl diphosphate, as well as easily detectable amounts of the derived bioactive isoTb. These results demonstrate isoTb production by Mtb specifically under conditions that mimic phagosomal cation concentrations, and further support a role for isoTb in the Mtb infection process.
Most types of ambers are naturally occurring, relatively hard, durable resinite polymers derived from the exudates of trees. This resource has been coveted for thousands of years due to its numerous useful properties in industrial processes, beauty, and purported medicinal properties. Labdane diterpenoid based ambers represent the most abundant and important resinites on earth. These resinites are a dwindling, non-renewable natural resource, so a new source of such materials needs to be established. Recent advances in sequencing technologies and biochemical engineering are rapidly accelerating the rate of identifying and assigning function to genes involved in terpenoid biosynthesis, as well as producing industrial-scale quantities of desired small-molecules in bacteria and yeast. This has provided new tools for engineering metabolic pathways capable of producing diterpenoid monomers that will enable the production of custom-tailored resinite-like polymers. Furthermore, this biosynthetic toolbox is continuously expanding, providing new possibilities for renewing dwindling stocks of naturally occurring resinite materials and engineering new materials for future applications.
The structure of ent-copalyl diphosphate synthase (CPS) reveals three α-helical domains (α, β, γ), as also observed in the related diterpene cyclase taxadiene synthase. However, active sites are located at the interface of the βγ domains in CPS but exclusively in the α domain of taxadiene synthase. Modular domain architecture in plant diterpene cyclases enables the evolution of alternative active sites and chemical strategies for catalyzing isoprenoid cyclization reactions.
Me2AlCl-catalyzed Diels–Alder reaction of N-tigloyloxazolidinone with 6,6-dimethyl-1-vinylcyclohexene selectively provided the exo adduct, which was converted to nosyberkol (isotuberculosinol) and tuberculosinol. The spectral data for nosyberkol are identical to those reported for edaxadiene, whose structure is revised accordingly.
Class II diterpene cyclases mediate the acid-initiated cycloisomerization reaction that serves as the committed step in biosynthesis of the large class of labdane-related diterpenoid natural products, which includes the important gibberellin plant hormones. Intriguingly, these enzymes are differentially susceptible to inhibition by their Mg2+ cofactor, with those involved in gibberellin biosynthesis being more sensitive to such inhibition than those devoted to secondary metabolism, which presumably limits flux toward the potent gibberellin phytohormones. Such inhibition has been suggested to arise from intrasteric Mg2+ binding to the DXDD motif that cooperatively acts as the catalytic acid, whose affinity must then be modulated in some fashion. While further investigating class II diterpene cyclase catalysis, we discovered a conserved basic residue that seems to act as a counter ion to the DXDD motif, enhancing the ability of aspartic acid to carry out the requisite energetically difficult protonation of a carbon-carbon double bond and also affecting inhibitory Mg2+ binding. Notably, this residue is conserved as a histidine in enzymes involved in gibberellin biosynthesis and as an arginine in those dedicated to secondary metabolism. Interchanging the identity of these residues is sufficient to switch the sensitivity of the parent enzyme to inhibition by Mg2+. These striking findings indicate that this is a single residue switch for Mg2+ inhibition, which not only supports the importance of this biochemical regulatory mechanism in limiting gibberellin biosynthesis, but the importance of its release, presumably to enable higher flux, into secondary metabolism.
Enzyme Catalysis; Enzyme Mechanisms; Evolution; Metabolism; Metabolic Regulation; Diterpene; Gibberellins; Natural Products; Terpene Synthases
Terpene synthases (TPS) require divalent metal ion co-factors, typically magnesium, that are bound by a canonical DDXXD motif, as well as a putative second, seemingly less well conserved and understood (N/D)DXX(S/T)XXXE motif. Given the role of the Ser/Thr side chain hydroxyl group in ligating one of the three catalytically requisite divalent metal ions and the loss of catalytic activity upon substitution with Ala, it is surprising that Gly is frequently found in this ‘middle’ position of the putative second divalent metal binding motif in plant TPS. Here we report mutational investigation of this discrepancy in a model plant diterpene cyclase, abietadiene synthase from Abies grandis (AgAS). Substitution of the corresponding Thr in AgAS with Ser or Gly decreased catalytic activity much less than substitution with Ala. We speculate that the ability of Gly to partially restore activity relative to Ala substitution for Ser/Thr stems from the associated reduction in steric volume enabling a water molecule to substitute for the hydroxyl group from Ser/Thr, potentially in a divalent metal ion coordination sphere. In any case, our results are consistent with the observed conservation pattern for this putative second divalent metal ion binding motif in plant TPS.
Terpene Synthase; Enzymatic Mechanism; Cyclization; Metal binding motifs; Labdane-related diterpenoids
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.
Terpenoid; Natural products biosynthesis; Metabolic engineering; Isoprenoid