Production of the sesquiterpenoid (+)-nootkatone by metabolic engineering of Pichia pastoris

Tamara Wriessnegger, Peter Andreas Augustin, Matthias Engleder, Erich Leitner, Monika Müller, Iwona Kaluzna, Martin Schürmann, Daniel Mink, Günther Zellnig, Helmut Schwab, Harald Pichler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sesquiterpenoid (+)-nootkatone is a highly demanded and highly valued aroma compound naturally found in grapefruit, pummelo or Nootka cypress tree. Extraction of (+)-nootkatone from plant material or its production by chemical synthesis suffers from low yields and the use of environmentally harmful methods, respectively. Lately, major attention has been paid to biotechnological approaches, using cell extracts or whole-cell systems for the production of (+)-nootkatone. In our study, the yeast Pichia pastoris initially was applied as whole-cell biocatalyst for the production of (+)-nootkatone from (+)-valencene, the abundant aroma compound of oranges. Therefore, we generated a strain co-expressing the premnaspirodiene oxygenase of Hyoscyamus muticus (HPO) and the Arabidopsis thaliana cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) that hydroxylated extracellularly added (+)-valencene. Intracellular production of (+)-valencene by co-expression of valencene synthase from Callitropsis nootkatensis resolved the phase-transfer issues of (+)-valencene. Bi-phasic cultivations of P. pastoris resulted in the production of trans-nootkatol, which was oxidized to (+)-nootkatone by an intrinsic P. pastoris activity. Additional overexpression of a P. pastoris alcohol dehydrogenase and truncated hydroxy-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (tHmg1p) significantly enhanced the (+)-nootkatone yield to 208 mg L−1 cell culture in bioreactor cultivations. Thus, metabolically engineered yeast P. pastoris represents a valuable, whole-cell system for high-level production of (+)-nootkatone from simple carbon sources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-29
JournalMetabolic Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Basic - Fundamental (Grundlagenforschung)
  • Application
  • Experimental

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