Exploring recombinant flavonoid biosynthesis in metabolically engineered Escherichia coli

Kevin T. Watts, Pyung Cheon Lee, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert

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145 Scopus citations


Flavonoids are important plant-specific secondary metabolites synthesized from 4-coumaroyl coenzyme A (CoA), derived from the general phenylpropanoid pathway, and three malonyl-CoAs. The synthesis involves a plant type III polyketide synthase, chalcone synthase. We report the cloning and coexpression in Escherichia coli of phenylalanine ammonia lyase, cinnamate-4-hydroxylase, 4-coumarate:CoA ligase, and chalcone synthase from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Simultaneous expression of all four genes resulted in a blockage after the first enzymatic step caused by the presence of nonfunctional cinnamate-4-hydroxylase. To overcome this problem we fed exogenous 4-coumaric acid to induced cultures. We observed high-level production of the flavanone naringenin as a result. We were also able to produce phloretin by feeding cultures with 3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)propionic acid. Feeding with ferulic or caffeic acid did not yield the corresponding flavanones. We have also cloned and partially characterized a new tyrosine ammonia lyase from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Tyrosine ammonia lyase was substituted for phenylalanine ammonia lyase and cinnamate-4-hydroxylase in our E. coli clones and three different growth media were tested. After 48 h induction, high-level production (20.8 mg L-1) of naringenin in metabolically engineered E. coli was observed for the first time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-507
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2 2004


  • Biosynthesis
  • Flavonoids
  • Heterologous expression
  • Natural products
  • Polyketides


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