Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.102, No.16, 6923-6934, 2018
Upregulating the mevalonate pathway and repressing sterol synthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae enhances the production of triterpenes
Pentacyclic triterpenes are diverse plant secondary metabolites derived from the mevalonate (MVA) pathway. Many of these molecules are potentially valuable, particularly as pharmaceuticals, and research has focused on their production in simpler and more amenable heterologous systems such as the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We have developed a new heterologous platform for the production of pentacyclic triterpenes in S. cerevisiae based on a combinatorial engineering strategy involving the overexpression of MVA pathway genes, the knockout of negative regulators, and the suppression of a competing pathway. Accordingly, we overexpressed S. cerevisiae ERG13, encoding 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) synthase, and a truncated and deregulated variant of the rate-limiting enzyme HMG-CoA reductase 1 (tHMGR). In the same engineering step, we deleted the ROX1 gene, encoding a negative regulator of the MVA pathway and sterol biosynthesis, resulting in a push-and-pull strategy to enhance metabolic flux through the system. In a second step, we redirected this enhanced metabolic flux from late sterol biosynthesis to the production of 2,3-oxidosqualene, the direct precursor of pentacyclic triterpenes. In yeast cells transformed with a newly isolated sequence encoding lupeol synthase from the Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz), we increased the yield of pentacyclic triterpenes by 127-fold and detected not only high levels of lupeol but also a second valuable pentacyclic triterpene product, beta-amyrin.