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Keywords:

  • fermentation;
  • amorphadiene;
  • terpene;
  • Escherichia coli;
  • heterologous pathway

Abstract

Reconstructing synthetic metabolic pathways in microbes holds great promise for the production of pharmaceuticals in large-scale fermentations. By recreating biosynthetic pathways in bacteria, complex molecules traditionally harvested from scarce natural resources can be produced in microbial cultures. Here we report on a strain of Escherichia coli containing a heterologous, nine-gene biosynthetic pathway for the production of the terpene amorpha-4,11-diene, a precursor to the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. Previous reports have underestimated the productivity of this strain due to the volatility of amorphadiene. Here we show that amorphadiene evaporates from a fermentor with a half-life of about 50 min. Using a condenser, we take advantage of this volatility by trapping the amorphadiene in the off-gas. Amorphadiene was positively identified using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and determined to be 89% pure as collected. We captured amorphadiene as it was produced in situ by employing a two-phase partitioning bioreactor with a dodecane organic phase. Using a previously characterized caryophyllene standard to calibrate amorphadiene production and capture, the concentration of amorphadiene produced was determined to be 0.5 g/L of culture medium. A standard of amorphadiene collected from the off-gas showed that the caryophyllene standard overestimated amorphadiene production by approximately 30%. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.