Production of isoprenoid pharmaceuticals by engineered microbes

Michelle C.Y. Chang, Jay D. Keasling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

330 Scopus citations


Throughout human history, natural products have been the foundation for the discovery and development of therapeutics used to treat diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Their chemical diversity and complexity have provided structural scaffolds for small-molecule drugs and have consistently served as inspiration for medicinal design. However, the chemical complexity of natural products also presents one of the main roadblocks for production of these pharmaceuticals on an industrial scale. Chemical synthesis of natural products is often difficult and expensive, and isolation from their natural sources is also typically low yielding. Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering offer an alternative approach that is becoming more accessible as the tools for engineering microbes are further developed. By reconstructing heterologous metabolic pathways in genetically tractable host organisms, complex natural products can be produced from inexpensive sugar starting materials through large-scale fermentation processes. In this Perspective, we discuss ongoing research aimed toward the production of terpenoid natural products in genetically engineered Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-681
Number of pages8
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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