Microbial production strategies and applications of lycopene and other terpenoids



Terpenoids are a large class of compounds that have far-reaching applications and economic value, particularly those most commonly found in plants; however, the extraction and synthesis of these compounds is often expensive and technically challenging. Recent advances in microbial metabolic engineering comprise a breakthrough that may enable the efficient, cost-effective production of these limited natural resources. Via the engineering of safe, industrial microorganisms that encode product-specific enzymes, and even entire metabolic pathways of interest, microbial-derived semisynthetic terpenoids may soon replace plant-derived terpenoids as the primary source of these valuable compounds. Indeed, the recent metabolic engineering of an Escherichia coli strain that produces the precursor to lycopene, a commercially and medically important compound, with higher yields than those in tomato plants serves as a successful example. Here, we review the recent developments in the metabolic engineering of microbes for the production of certain terpenoid compounds, particularly lycopene, which has been increasingly used in pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, and cosmetics. Furthermore, we summarize the metabolic engineering strategies used to achieve successful microbial production of some similar compounds. Based on this overview, there is a reason to believe that metabolic engineering comprises an optimal approach for increasing the production of lycopene and other terpenoids.


Lycopene Metabolic engineering Biosynthesis Synthetic biology Terpenoid 



This work was supported by grants from the 973 (2012CB721000, 2011CBA00800) and 863 programs (2012AA02A701) of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31222002).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no financial or commercial conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Combinatorial Biosynthesis and Drug Discovery (Wuhan University), Ministry of EducationWuhan University School of Pharmaceutical SciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Hubei Engineering Laboratory for Synthetic MicrobiologyWuhan Institute of BiotechnologyWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Hubei Provincial Cooperative Innovation Center of Industrial FermentationWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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