Optimizing Oleaginous Yeast Cell Factories for Flavonoids and Hydroxylated Flavonoids Biosynthesis

Yongkun Lv, Monireh Marsafari, Mattheos Koffas, Jingwen Zhou*, Peng Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Plants possess myriads of secondary metabolites with a broad spectrum of health-promoting benefits. To date, plant extraction is still the primary route to produce high-value natural products which inherently suffers from economics and scalability issues. Heterologous expression of plant biosynthetic gene clusters in microbial host is considered as a feasible approach to overcoming these limitations. Oleaginous yeast produces a large amount of lipid bodies, the abundant membrane structure and the lipophilic environment provide the ideal environment for the regioselectivity and stereoselectivity of many plant-derived P450 enzymes. In this work, we used modular method to construct, characterize, and optimize the flavonoid pathways in Yarrowia lipolytica. We also evaluated various precursor biosynthetic routes and unleashed the metabolic potential of Y. lipolytica to produce flavonoids and hydroxylated flavonoids. Specifically, we have identified that chalcone synthase (CHS) and cytochrome P450 reductases (CPR) were the bottlenecks of hydroxylated flavonoid production. We determined the optimal gene copy number of CHS and CPR to be 5 and 2, respectively. We further removed precursor pathway limitations by expressing genes associated with chorismate and malonyl-CoA supply. With pH and carbon-nitrogen ratio (C/N) optimization, our engineered strain produced 252.4 mg/L naringenin, 134.2 mg/L eriodictyol, and 110.5 mg/L taxifolin from glucose in shake flasks. Flavonoid and its hydroxylated derivatives are most prominently known as antioxidant and antiaging agents. These findings demonstrate our ability to harness the oleaginous yeast as the microbial workhorse to expand nature's biosynthetic potential, enabling us to bridge the gap between drug discovery and natural product manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2514-2523
Number of pages10
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • P450
  • flavonoids
  • hydroxylation
  • metabolic engineering
  • natural products
  • oleaginous yeast


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