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Unnatural biosynthesis by an engineered microorganism with heterologously expressed natural enzymes and an artificial metalloenzyme


Synthetic biology enables microbial hosts to produce complex molecules from organisms that are rare or difficult to cultivate, but the structures of these molecules are limited to those formed by reactions of natural enzymes. The integration of artificial metalloenzymes (ArMs) that catalyse unnatural reactions into metabolic networks could broaden the cache of molecules produced biosynthetically. Here we report an engineered microbial cell expressing a heterologous biosynthetic pathway, containing both natural enzymes and ArMs, that produces an unnatural product with high diastereoselectivity. We engineered Escherichia coli with a heterologous terpene biosynthetic pathway and an ArM containing an iridium-porphyrin complex that was transported into the cell with a heterologous transport system. We improved the diastereoselectivity and product titre of the unnatural product by evolving the ArM and selecting the appropriate gene induction and cultivation conditions. This work shows that synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry can produce, by combining natural and artificial enzymes in whole cells, molecules that were previously inaccessible to nature.

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