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Metab Eng Commun. 2019 Dec 15;10:e00118. doi: 10.1016/j.mec.2019.e00118. eCollection 2020 Jun.

Modular engineering for microbial production of carotenoids.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA, 02139, USA.
Disruptive & Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, Singapore, 138602, Singapore.


There is an increasing demand for carotenoids due to their applications in the food, flavor, pharmaceutical and feed industries, however, the extraction and synthesis of these compounds can be expensive and technically challenging. Microbial production of carotenoids provides an attractive alternative to the negative environmental impacts and cost of chemical synthesis or direct extraction from plants. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches have been widely utilized to reconstruct and optimize pathways for carotenoid overproduction in microorganisms. This review summarizes the current advances in microbial engineering for carotenoid production and divides the carotenoid biosynthesis building blocks into four distinct metabolic modules: 1) central carbon metabolism, 2) cofactor metabolism, 3) isoprene supplement metabolism and 4) carotenoid biosynthesis. These four modules focus on redirecting carbon flux and optimizing cofactor supplements for isoprene precursors needed for carotenoid synthesis. Future perspectives are also discussed to provide insights into microbial engineering principles for overproduction of carotenoids.


Carotenoids; Isopentenol utilization pathway; Metabolic engineering; Mevalonate; Modular engineering; Synthetic biology

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

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