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Nat Biotechnol. 1997 Aug;15(8):784-8.

Drug metabolism by Escherichia coli expressing human cytochromes P450.

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Department of Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.


The broad substrate specificity of the cytochrome P450 (P450) enzyme superfamily of heme-thiolate proteins lends itself to diverse environmental and pharmaceutical applications. Until recently, the primary drawback in using living bacteria to catalyze mammalian P450-mediated reactions has been the paucity of electron transport from NADPH to P450 via endogenous flavoproteins. We report the functional expression in Escherichia coli of bicistronic constructs consisting of a human microsomal P450 enzyme encoded by the first cistron and the auxiliary protein NADPH-P450 reductase by the second. Expression levels of P450s ranged from 35 nmol per liter culture to 350 nmol per liter culture, with expression of NADPH-P450 reductase typically ranging from 50% to 100% of that of P450. Transformed bacteria metabolized a number of typical P450 substrates at levels comparable to isolated bacterial membranes fortified with an NADPH-generating system. These rates compare favorably with those obtained using human liver microsomes as well as those of reconstituted in vitro systems composed of purified proteins, lipids, and cofactors.

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