Navigation Links
Caltech engineers build mini drug-producing biofactories in yeast
Date:8/15/2008

PASADENA, Calif.-- Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a novel way to churn out large quantities of drugs, including antiplaque toothpaste additives, antibiotics, nicotine, and even morphine, using mini biofactories--in yeast.

A paper describing the research, now available online, will be featured as the cover article of the September issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

Christina D. Smolke, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Caltech, along with graduate student Kristy Hawkins, genetically modified common baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) so that it contained the genes for several plant enzymes. The enzymes allow the yeast to produce a chemical called reticuline, which is a precursor for many different classes of benzylisoquinoline alkaloid (BIA) molecules. The BIA molecules are a large group of chemically intricate compounds, such as morphine, nicotine, and codeine, which are naturally produced by plants.

BIA molecules exhibit a wide variety of pharmacological activities, including antispasmodic effects, pain relief, and hair growth acceleration. Other BIAs have shown anticancer, antioxidant, antimalarial, and anti-HIV potential.

"There are estimated to be thousands of members in the BIA family, and having a source for obtaining large quantities of specific BIA molecules is critical to gaining access to the diverse functional activities provided by these molecules," says Smolke, whose lab focuses on using biology as a technology for the synthesis of new chemicals, materials, and products. However, the natural plant sources of BIAs accumulate only a small number of the molecules, usually "end products" like morphine and codeine that, while valuable, can't be turned into other compounds, thus limiting the availability of useful new products.

To their reticuline-producing yeast, Smolke and Hawkins added the genes for other enzymes, from both plants and humans, which allowed the yeast to efficiently generate large quantities of the precursors for sanguinarine, a toothpaste additive with antiplaque properties; berberine, an antibiotic; and morphine.

The researchers are now in the process of engineering their yeast so that they will turn these precursor molecules into the final, pharmacologically useful molecules. "But even the intermediate molecules that we are producing can exhibit important and valuable activities, and a related area of research will be to examine more closely the pharmacological activities of these metabolites and derivatives now that pure sources can be obtained," says Smolke, who estimates that her system could be used for the large-scale manufacture of BIA compounds in one to three years.

Smolke and Hawkins also plan to extend their research to the production of BIAs that don't normally exist in nature.

"If one thinks of these molecules as encoding functions that are of interest to us, the ability to produce nonnatural alkaloids will provide access to more diverse functions and activities. By expanding to nonnatural alkaloids, we can search for molecules that provide enhanced activities, new activities, and not be limited by the activities that have been selected for in nature," says Smolke.

"Our work has the potential to result in new therapeutic drugs for a broad range of diseases. This work also provides an exciting example of the increased complexity with which we are engineering biological systems to address global societal challenges," she says.


'/>"/>
Contact: Kathy Svitil
ksvitil@caltech.edu
626-395-8022
California Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UNC, Caltech research finds further evidence for genetic contribution to autism
2. Caltech researchers find dual-use sexual attraction and population-control chemicals in nematodes
3. Caltech scientists awarded $20 million to Power the Planet
4. Caltech neurobiologists discover individuals who hear movement
5. Bioengineers at University of Pennsylvania devise nanoscale system to measure cellular forces
6. Princeton engineers develop low-cost recipe for patterning microchips
7. UCR engineers to develop new tool to measure how environmental exposures affect health
8. Boston University biomedical engineers find chink in bacterias armor
9. CU researcher engineers sorghum that grows in poisonous soils
10. Institution of Chemical Engineers chooses Elsevier as publishing partner
11. Engineers study brain folding in higher mammals
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/13/2017)... Jan. 13, 2017 Sandata Technologies, LLC, ... the homecare industry, including Electronic Visit Verification™ (EVV™), ... Justin Jugs, as Senior Vice President of Product ... years of homecare experience to Sandata, where he ... plans to align Sandata,s suite of solutions with ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... , Jan. 12, 2017  New research undertaken by ... of the future.  1,000 participants were simply asked which office ... which we may consider standard issue.  Insights on what ... were also gathered from futurists and industry leaders including ... James Canton .  Some of these ...
(Date:1/11/2017)... , Jan. 11, 2017 Intoxalock, a leading ... the release of its patent-pending calibration device. With this ... perform calibrations, securely upload data logs and process repairs ... customer. "Fighting drunk driving through the application ... public at large, but also for the customer who ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/20/2017)... 2017  At the 2017 Health Information Management ... , IBM (NYSE: IBM ) today ... Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty ... from 8:30-10 am ET, broadcast live on ... remarks examine the advent of the Cognitive Era ...
(Date:2/18/2017)... ... February 17, 2017 , ... The BMT Tandem Meetings ... for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) will take place Feb. 22-26, ... The combined scientific sessions offer investigators, clinicians, laboratory technicians, clinical research professionals, nurses, ...
(Date:2/17/2017)... , Feb. 17, 2017  BioGenex, a ... announce development of a novel system for quantitative ... with the University of Rochester (NY, USA) and ... The new system is able to accurately quantify ... HER2 (Human epidermal growth factor receptor-2) in clinical ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... ... February 16, 2017 , ... EIT Digital has launched work to ... industry. Pilot studies are about to get under way for the framework, which is ... innovations. The concept is expected to be transferred eventually to other industries that also ...
Breaking Biology Technology: