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Engineering modular diterpene biosynthetic pathways in Physcomitrella patens

Banerjee, Aparajita, Arnesen, Jonathan A., Moser, Daniel, Motsa, Balindile B., Johnson, Sean R., Hamberger, Bjoern
Planta 2019 v.249 no.1 pp. 221-233
Angiospermae, DNA fragmentation, Physcomitrella patens, alkyl (aryl) transferases, biochemical pathways, biocompatible materials, diterpenoids, embryophytes, engineering, experimental design, gene editing, genome, gibberellic acid, haploidy, heterologous gene expression, homologous recombination, loci, metabolites, mosses and liverworts, recombinant peptides, retrotransposons, terminal repeat sequences
MAIN CONCLUSION: Modular assembly and heterologous expression in the moss Physcomitrella patens of pairs of diterpene synthases results in accumulation of modern land plant diterpenoids. Physcomitrella patens is a representative of the ancient bryophyte plant lineage with a genome size of 511 Mb, dominant haploid life cycle and limited chemical and metabolic complexity. For these plants, exceptional capacity for genome editing through homologous recombination is met with recently demonstrated in vivo assembly of multiple heterologous DNA fragments. These traits earlier made P. patens an attractive choice as a biotechnological chassis for photosynthesis-driven production of recombinant peptides. The lack of diterpene gibberellic acid phytohormones in P. patens combined with the recent targeted disruption of the single bifunctional diterpene synthase yielded lines devoid of endogenous diterpenoid metabolites and well-suited for engineering of terpenoid production. Here, we mimicked the modular nature of diterpene biosynthetic pathways found in modern land plants by developing a flexible pipeline to install three combinations of class II and class I diterpene synthases in P. patens to access industrially relevant diterpene biomaterials. In addition to a well-established neutral locus for targeted integration, we also explored loci created by a class of Long Terminal Repeat Retrotransposon present at moderate number in the genome of P. patens. Assembly of the pathways and production of the enzymes from the neutral locus led to accumulation of diterpenes matching the reported activities in the angiosperm sources. In contrast, insights gained with the retrotransposon loci indicate their suitability for targeting, but reveal potentially inherent complications which may require adaptation of the experimental design.