(ORDO NEWS) — Biotechnologists have proposed a new method for the production of a number of natural active compounds. With the help of amoebas, they were able to synthesize antibiotics and nutritional supplements, as well as olivetolic acid, the precursor of tetrahydrocannabinol, which is now actively used in medicine.
A team of scientists from the Hans Knell Institute (Germany) has developed an innovative method for the production of natural active compounds. Researchers used amoebas to synthesize polyketides, secondary metabolites of almost all living organisms.
These substances have a wide range of therapeutic applications. These include dietary supplements, some antibiotics, including erythromycin, and one of the key cannabinoid precursors, olivetolic acid, a precursor of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
This well-known psychoactive substance is now being actively studied by doctors around the world, as it can be used to alleviate neurological diseases and chronic pain.
THC is found in cannabis flowers and leaves, but it is extremely difficult to isolate it in its pure form. On the other hand, the chemical synthesis of THC is quite an expensive process.
Therefore, scientists turned to the methods of biotechnology. So far, bacteria, such as Escherichia coli , or the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae , have mainly been used to synthesize various chemical compounds .
However, the production of complex natural compounds requires a huge number of modifications to the bacterial genome. Therefore, scientists are looking for organisms that could replace them.
A promising candidate was the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum , which has many genes for the biosynthesis of various natural compounds, including polyketides. In addition, it turned out that some of these genes are similar to plant genes.
To test how well D. discoideum is suitable for biotechnological production, the scientists edited the genome of the amoeba so that it began to produce the polyketide resveratrol, which is used as a food additive.
After the amoeba successfully coped with this task, the researchers introduced into its DNA the gene for a plant enzyme that produces olivetolic acid.
But this process still required the addition of additional chemicals. To get around the limitation, they created a hybrid enzyme that combines the features of an amoeba protein and a plant. The new enzyme allowed amoebas to produce olivetolic acid without the use of additional chemicals.
Thus, D. discoideum can become a new biotechnological platform for the production of natural compounds based on polyketides. Now the scientists plan to add two more enzymes to the amoeba so that it can immediately produce their ultimate goal, THC.
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