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750 NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY VOL 18 JULY 2000 http://biotech.nature.com RESEARCH ARTICLES

Summary: 750 NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY VOL 18 JULY 2000 http://biotech.nature.com
Natural products comprise an enormous diversity of chemical struc-
tures and biological functions. Unfortunately, many potentially useful
compounds are found in only trace quantities in their natural sources
and are difficult or impossible to synthesize chemically. And however
rich this pool of natural structures, it is but a tiny fraction of the struc-
tures that could be made biologically. This essentially infinite bank of
possibly functional molecules is a compelling target for biological
design. Driving the field of metabolic engineering is the hope that
recombinant cells can serve as biosynthetic factories as well as sources
of new molecular diversity14. Biosynthetic enzymes and catalytic
modules can be recombined into new pathways for the synthesis of
natural and novel metabolites3,4. However, reliance on finding the
appropriate catalytic functions in nature needlessly limits the com-
pounds that can be synthesized in engineered organisms.
The principles of breeding and in vitro evolution can be used to
access natural product diversity rapidly and in simple laboratory
organisms such as Escherichia coli. To "breed" new biosynthetic
pathways we can mix and match genes from different sources, even


Source: Arnold, Frances H. - Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology


Collections: Chemistry; Biology and Medicine