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      Production of amorphadiene in yeast, and its conversion to dihydroartemisinic acid, precursor to the antimalarial agent artemisinin

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          Abstract

          Malaria, caused by Plasmodium sp, results in almost one million deaths and over 200 million new infections annually. The World Health Organization has recommended that artemisinin-based combination therapies be used for treatment of malaria. Artemisinin is a sesquiterpene lactone isolated from the plant Artemisia annua. However, the supply and price of artemisinin fluctuate greatly, and an alternative production method would be valuable to increase availability. We describe progress toward the goal of developing a supply of semisynthetic artemisinin based on production of the artemisinin precursor amorpha-4,11-diene by fermentation from engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and its chemical conversion to dihydroartemisinic acid, which can be subsequently converted to artemisinin. Previous efforts to produce artemisinin precursors used S. cerevisiae S288C overexpressing selected genes of the mevalonate pathway [Ro et al. (2006) Nature 440:940-943]. We have now overexpressed every enzyme of the mevalonate pathway to ERG20 in S. cerevisiae CEN.PK2, and compared production to CEN.PK2 engineered identically to the previously engineered S288C strain. Overexpressing every enzyme of the mevalonate pathway doubled artemisinic acid production, however, amorpha-4,11-diene production was 10-fold higher than artemisinic acid. We therefore focused on amorpha-4,11-diene production. Development of fermentation processes for the reengineered CEN.PK2 amorpha-4,11-diene strain led to production of > 40 g/L product. A chemical process was developed to convert amorpha-4,11-diene to dihydroartemisinic acid, which could subsequently be converted to artemisinin. The strains and procedures described represent a complete process for production of semisynthetic artemisinin.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Production of the antimalarial drug precursor artemisinic acid in engineered yeast.

          Malaria is a global health problem that threatens 300-500 million people and kills more than one million people annually. Disease control is hampered by the occurrence of multi-drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Synthetic antimalarial drugs and malarial vaccines are currently being developed, but their efficacy against malaria awaits rigorous clinical testing. Artemisinin, a sesquiterpene lactone endoperoxide extracted from Artemisia annua L (family Asteraceae; commonly known as sweet wormwood), is highly effective against multi-drug-resistant Plasmodium spp., but is in short supply and unaffordable to most malaria sufferers. Although total synthesis of artemisinin is difficult and costly, the semi-synthesis of artemisinin or any derivative from microbially sourced artemisinic acid, its immediate precursor, could be a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, high-quality and reliable source of artemisinin. Here we report the engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce high titres (up to 100 mg l(-1)) of artemisinic acid using an engineered mevalonate pathway, amorphadiene synthase, and a novel cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (CYP71AV1) from A. annua that performs a three-step oxidation of amorpha-4,11-diene to artemisinic acid. The synthesized artemisinic acid is transported out and retained on the outside of the engineered yeast, meaning that a simple and inexpensive purification process can be used to obtain the desired product. Although the engineered yeast is already capable of producing artemisinic acid at a significantly higher specific productivity than A. annua, yield optimization and industrial scale-up will be required to raise artemisinic acid production to a level high enough to reduce artemisinin combination therapies to significantly below their current prices.
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            Qinghaosu (artemisinin): the price of success.

             Andrew White (2008)
            Artemisinin and its derivatives have become essential components of antimalarial treatment. These plant-derived peroxides are unique among antimalarial drugs in killing the young intraerythrocytic malaria parasites, thereby preventing their development to more pathological mature stages. This results in rapid clinical and parasitological responses to treatment and life-saving benefit in severe malaria. Artemisinin combination treatments (ACTs) are now first-line drugs for uncomplicated falciparum malaria, but access to ACTs is still limited in most malaria-endemic countries. Improved agricultural practices, selection of high-yielding hybrids, microbial production, and the development of synthetic peroxides will lower prices. A global subsidy would make these drugs more affordable and available. ACTs are central to current malaria elimination initiatives, but there are concerns that tolerance to artemisinins may be emerging in Cambodia.
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              An interlaboratory comparison of physiological and genetic properties of four Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains.

              To select a Saccharomyces cerevisiae reference strain amenable to experimental techniques used in (molecular) genetic, physiological and biochemical engineering research, a variety of properties were studied in four diploid, prototrophic laboratory strains. The following parameters were investigated: 1) maximum specific growth rate in shake-flask cultures; 2) biomass yields on glucose during growth on defined media in batch cultures and steady-state chemostat cultures under controlled conditions with respect to pH and dissolved oxygen concentration; 3) the critical specific growth rate above which aerobic fermentation becomes apparent in glucose-limited accelerostat cultures; 4) sporulation and mating efficiency; and 5) transformation efficiency via the lithium-acetate, bicine, and electroporation methods. On the basis of physiological as well as genetic properties, strains from the CEN.PK family were selected as a platform for cell-factory research on the stoichiometry and kinetics of growth and product formation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                January 17 2012
                January 17 2012
                January 12 2012
                January 17 2012
                : 109
                : 3
                : E111-E118
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1110740109
                3271868
                22247290
                © 2012
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