Thursday, 17 May 2018

Yeast engineered to manufacture complex medicine

Bioengineers have figured out a way to make noscapine, a non-narcotic cough suppressant that occurs naturally in opium poppies, in brewer's yeast.

The researchers inserted 25 foreign genes into the one-celled fungus to turn it into an efficient factory for producing the drug. Many of the inserted genes came from the poppy, but several came from other plants and even from rats. All those genes were recipes for enzymes: protein machines that, working together, can build complex substances from simple starting materials.

The researchers also modified some of the plant, rat and yeast genes, as well as the medium in which the yeast proliferates, to help everything work better together. The result was an 18,000-fold improvement in noscapine output, compared with what could be obtained by just inserting the plant and rat genes into yeast.


Yanran Li, Sijin Li, Kate Thodey, Isis Trenchard, Aaron Cravens, Christina D. Smolke. Complete biosynthesis of noscapine and halogenated alkaloids in yeast. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201721469 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1721469115

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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