New Insights on Steroid Biotechnology

Lorena Fernandez-Cabezon, Beatriz Galán, José L. García*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review

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Nowadays steroid manufacturing occupies a prominent place in the pharmaceutical industry with an annual global market over $10 billion. The synthesis of steroidal active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) such as sex hormones (estrogens, androgens, and progestogens) and corticosteroids is currently performed by a combination of microbiological and chemical processes. Several mycobacterial strains capable of naturally metabolizing sterols (e.g., cholesterol, phytosterols) are used as biocatalysts to transform phytosterols into steroidal intermediates (synthons), which are subsequently used as key precursors to produce steroidal APIs in chemical processes. These synthons can also be modified by other microbial strains capable of introducing regio- and/or stereospecific modifications (functionalization) into steroidal molecules. Most of the industrial microbial strains currently available have been improved through traditional technologies based on physicochemical mutagenesis and selection processes. Surprisingly, Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology approaches have hardly been applied for this purpose. This review attempts to highlight the most relevant research on Steroid Biotechnology carried out in last decades, focusing specially on those works based on recombinant DNA technologies, as well as outlining trends and future perspectives. In addition, the need to construct new microbial cell factories (MCF) to design more robust and bio-sustainable bioprocesses with the ultimate aim of producing steroids à la carte is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number958
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2018 Fernández-Cabezón, Galán and García. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Steroid
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Actinobacteria
  • Microbial cell factory
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Systems biology


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