Microbial synthesis of terpenes is a focus of the working group Industrial Biotechnology. Despite the enormous structural diversity of natural terpenes, their biosynthesis always starts from the terpene building block IPP and its isomer DMAPP. In the now published article, DFI scientists describe the discovery and characterization of a bacterial enzyme that can convert IPP into various derivatives through methylation and even dimethylation. The fact that these derivatives are also available for the biotechnological synthesis of aroma or pharmaceutical terpenes was demonstrated after introduction of the enzyme into the bacterium Escherichia coli. The cellular terpene biosynthetic pathway of this microorganism used the unusual building blocks for the synthesis of longer terpene precursors, in one case even generating a new chiral center. The great importance of the discovered enzyme and similar ones for the extension of the chemical structure space of terpenes was demonstrated by the DFI researchers in collaboration with groups from the Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany via the creation of completely novel carotenoid structures. The technology enables completely new possibilities in particular for the development of pharmaceutical and agrochemical ingredients, but also for the synthesis of e.g. fragrances.
The work has been published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.