PerspectiveBIOENGINEERING

Yeast cell factories on the horizon

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Science  04 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6252, pp. 1050-1051
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2081

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Summary

For thousands of years, yeast has been used for making beer, bread, and wine. In modern times, it has become a commercial workhorse for producing fuels, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals such as insulin, human serum albumin, and vaccines against hepatitis virus and human papillomavirus. Yeast has also been engineered to make chemicals at industrial scale (e.g., succinic acid, lactic acid, resveratrol) and advanced biofuels (e.g., isobutanol) (1). On page 1095 of this issue, Galanie et al. (2) demonstrate that yeast can now be engineered to produce opioids (2), a major class of compounds used for treating severe pain. Their study represents a tour de force in the metabolic engineering of yeast, as it involved the expression of genes for more than 20 enzymatic activities from plants, mammals, bacteria, and yeast itself. It clearly represents a breakthrough advance for making complex natural products in a controlled and sustainable way.