Engineering of Yarrowia lipolytica for the production of plant triterpenoids: Asiatic, madecassic, and arjunolic acids

Jonathan Asmund Arnesen, Arian Belmonte Del Ama, Sidharth Jayachandran, Jonathan Dahlin, Daniela Rago, Aaron John Christian Andersen, Irina Borodina*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Several plant triterpenoids have valuable pharmaceutical properties, but their production and usage is limited since extraction from plants can burden natural resources, and result in low yields and purity. Here, we engineered oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to produce three valuable plant triterpenoids (asiatic, madecassic, and arjunolic acids) by fermentation. First, we established the recombinant production of precursors, ursolic and oleanolic acids, by expressing plant enzymes in free or fused versions in a Y. lipolytica strain previously optimized for squalene production. Engineered strains produced up to 11.6 mg/g DCW ursolic acid or 10.2 mg/g DCW oleanolic acid. The biosynthetic pathway from ursolic acid was extended by expressing the Centella asiatica cytochrome P450 monoxygenases CaCYP716C11p, CaCYP714E19p, and CaCYP716E41p, resulting in the production of trace amounts of asiatic acid and 0.12 mg/g DCW madecassic acid. Expressing the same C. asiatica cytochromes P450 in oleanolic acid-producing strain resulted in the production of oleanane triterpenoids. Expression of CaCYP716C11p in the oleanolic acid-producing strain yielded 8.9 mg/g DCW maslinic acid. Further expression of a codon-optimized CaCYP714E19p resulted in 4.4 mg/g DCW arjunolic acid. Lastly, arjunolic acid production was increased to 9.1 mg/g DCW by swapping the N-terminal domain of CaCYP714E19p with the N-terminal domain from a Kalopanax septemlobus cytochrome P450. In summary, we have demonstrated the production of asiatic, madecassic, and arjunolic acids in a microbial cell factory. The strains and fermentation processes need to be further improved before the production of these molecules by fermentation can be industrialized.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00197
JournalMetabolic Engineering Communications
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Metabolic engineering
  • Terpenoid
  • Natural products
  • Yeast
  • Yarrowia lipolytica
  • Synthetic biology


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