Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz Previously Published Works bannerUC Santa Cruz

Scalable Biosynthesis of the Seaweed Neurochemical, Kainic Acid


Kainic acid, the flagship member of the kainoid family of natural neurochemicals, is a widely used neuropharmacological agent that helped unravel the key role of ionotropic glutamate receptors, including the kainate receptor, in the central nervous system. Worldwide shortages of this seaweed natural product in the year 2000 prompted numerous chemical syntheses, including scalable preparations with as few as six-steps. Herein we report the discovery and characterization of the concise two-enzyme biosynthetic pathway to kainic acid from l-glutamic acid and dimethylallyl pyrophosphate in red macroalgae and show that the biosynthetic genes are co-clustered in genomes of Digenea simplex and Palmaria palmata. Moreover, we applied a key biosynthetic α-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase enzyme in a biotransformation methodology to efficiently construct kainic acid on the gram scale. This study establishes both the feasibility of mining seaweed genomes for their biotechnological prowess.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View