Harnessing the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the production of fungal secondary metabolites

Guokun Wang*, Douglas B Kell, Irina Borodina*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Fungal secondary metabolites (FSMs) represent a remarkable array of bioactive compounds, with potential applications as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and agrochemicals. However, these molecules are typically produced only in limited amounts by their native hosts. The native organisms may also be difficult to cultivate and genetically engineer, and some can produce undesirable toxic side-products. Alternatively, recombinant production of fungal bioactives can be engineered into industrial cell factories, such as aspergilli or yeasts, which are well amenable for large-scale manufacturing in submerged fermentations. In this review, we summarize the development of baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce compounds derived from filamentous fungi and mushrooms. These compounds mainly include polyketides, terpenoids, and amino acid derivatives. We also describe how native biosynthetic pathways can be combined or expanded to produce novel derivatives and new-to-nature compounds. We describe some new approaches for cell factory engineering, such as genome-scale engineering, biosensor-based high-throughput screening, and machine learning, and how these tools have been applied for S. cerevisiae strain improvement. Finally, we prospect the challenges and solutions in further development of yeast cell factories to more efficiently produce FSMs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEssays in Biochemistry
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)277–291
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Fungal secondary metabolites
  • High-throughput screening
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Yeast


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