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De Novo Biosynthesis of the Anticancer Compound Euphol in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
ACS Synthetic Biology  (IF5.11),  Pub Date : 2021-08-27, DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.1c00257
Weibo Qiao, Wei Feng, Lu Yang, Changfu Li, Xudong Qu, Yansheng Zhang

Euphol is a euphane-type tetracyclic triterpene which is primarily found in the Euphorbia genus. Euphol has been renowned because of its great potential as a promising anticancer drug. Surprisingly, despite its diverse antitumor effects, the respective gene for euphol biosynthesis had not been identified until this study. In our experiments with Euphorbia tirucalli, euphol was detected predominantly in latex, the element that is often used for cancer treatments in Brazil. Two latex-specifically expressed oxidosqualene cyclases (OSCs) from E. tirucalli, designated as EtOSC5 and EtOSC6, were functionally characterized by expression in a lanosterol synthase knockout yeast strain GIL77. EtOSC5 produces euphol and its 20S-isomer tirucallol as two of the major products, while EtOSC6 produces taraxasterol and β-amyrin as the major products. These four compounds were also detected as the major triterpenes in the E. tirucalli latex, suggesting that EtOSC5 and EtOSC6 are the primary catalysts for the formation of E. tirucalli latex triterpene alcohols. Based on a model structure of EtOSC5 followed with site-mutagenesis experiments, the mechanism for the EtOSC5 activity was proposed. By applying state-of-the-art engineering techniques, the expression of EtOSC5 together with three other known precursor genes were chromosomally integrated into Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The resulting engineered yeast strain YS5E-1 produced 1.84 ± 0.17 mg/L of euphol in shake flasks.