Fine-tuning the chloroplast system for plant based bio-production – University of Copenhagen

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25 April 2018

Fine-tuning the chloroplast system for plant based bio-production


The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a 3-year grant for postdoc Silas Mellor in the Pribil lab at Copenhagen Plant Science Centre.

Plant based bio-production is gaining traction as a cost-efficient and sustainable complement to traditional microbial metabolic engineering systems. Plant chloroplasts offer promising compartments for production of high-value chemicals (e.g. medicines, fragrances, flavors and dyes) by metabolic engineering because they accommodate enzymes readily and serve as central cellular metabolic hubs.

The potential of cytochrome P450 proteins
For the next 3 years postdoc Silas Mellor from CPSC will focus on developing technology to overcome limitations in redistributing photosynthetic reducing power to drive cytochrome P450 reactions. P450s are key enzymes in a multitude of metabolic pathways. The project entails using recent chloroplast genome engineering and nuclear super-transformation techniques, that can enable directed evolution of electron carrier proteins to improve transfer of photosynthetic reducing power to plant, mammalian and bacterial P450s.

The overall goal is to develop a universal chloroplast P450 expression system that achieves improved plant based production of high-value pharmaceuticals, drug metabolites and new-to-nature compounds in a cost-efficient and environmentally benign manner.

Collaboration with Germany and Australia
Scientific collaboration for the project is planned with Professor Ralph Bock from Max Planck Institute of Plant Physiology, Germany - a leading international expert in plastid genetic engineering and chloroplast biotechnology, and also Professor Liz Gillam, University of Queensland, Australia - an expert on directed evolution and engineering of cytochrome P450s and their reductases.

Funding from Novo Nordisk
The project is made possible by a Postdoctoral fellowships for research within biotechnology-based synthesis and production from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The title of the project is “Integrating approaches to develop Nicotiana tabacum as a small molecule production platform”. It will start in October 2018 and run until 2021.