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Engineering yeast phospholipid metabolism for de novo oleoylethanolamide production


Phospholipids, the most abundant membrane lipid components, are crucial in maintaining membrane structures and homeostasis for biofunctions. As a structurally diverse and tightly regulated system involved in multiple organelles, phospholipid metabolism is complicated to manipulate. Thus, repurposing phospholipids for lipid-derived chemical production remains unexplored. Herein, we develop a Saccharomyces cerevisiae platform for de novo production of oleoylethanolamide, a phospholipid derivative with promising pharmacological applications in ameliorating lipid dysfunction and neurobehavioral symptoms. Through deregulation of phospholipid metabolism, screening of biosynthetic enzymes, engineering of subcellular trafficking and process optimization, we could produce oleoylethanolamide at a titer of 8,115.7 µg l−1 and a yield on glucose of 405.8 µg g−1. Our work provides a proof-of-concept study for systemically repurposing phospholipid metabolism for conversion towards value-added biological chemicals, and this multi-faceted framework may shed light on tailoring phospholipid metabolism in other microbial hosts.

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Fig. 1: Engineering a phospholipid platform for de novo biosynthesis of NAEs in yeast.
Fig. 2: Phospholipid production by engineered S. cerevisiae strains.
Fig. 3: Enzyme screening towards improving biosynthesis of OEA.
Fig. 4: Unlocking bottlenecks of the OEA biosynthetic pathway in yeast.
Fig. 5: Combinatorial optimization to increase the production of OEA.

Data availability

The materials and data reported in this study are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.


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We appreciate the helpful discussion with Y. Zhou, Z. Zhu, X. Li, T. Yu, P. Teixeira and G. Liu. We thank L. Fang-I Chao, K. Campbell and Z. Zhu for help with final polishing of the manuscript, and J. Kindbom from Chalmers Mass Spectrometry Infrastructure for his help with GC–MS analysis. We acknowledge A. Pielach and M. Micaroni from the Centre for Cellular Imaging at the University of Gothenburg and the National Microscopy Infrastructure (VR-RFI 2016-00968) for providing assistance in microscopy. We acknowledge funding from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (grant no. RBP14-0013, to J.N.), the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (project no. 2015-0279, to J.N.) and the Novo Nordisk Foundation (grant no. NNF10CC1016517, to J.N.).

Author information




Y.L., A.K. and J.N. conceived the study. Y.L. designed the experiments, executed experiments and did the data analysis. Q.L assisted with genetic constructs. S.K. assisted with GC–MS analysis. Y.L., Q.L., A.K. and J.N. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and made comments on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jens Nielsen.

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Competing interests

J.N. and A.K. are shareholders in Biopetrolia AB.

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Liu, Y., Liu, Q., Krivoruchko, A. et al. Engineering yeast phospholipid metabolism for de novo oleoylethanolamide production. Nat Chem Biol 16, 197–205 (2020).

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