Expanding nature's small molecule diversity via in vitro biosynthetic pathway engineering

Seok Joon Kwon, Mauricio Mora-Pale, Moo Yeal Lee, Jonathan S. Dordick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The enormous pool of chemical diversity found in nature serves as an excellent inventory for accessing biologically active compounds. This chemical inventory, primarily found in microorganisms and plants, is generated by a broad range of enzymatic pathways under precise genetic and protein-level control. In vitro pathway reconstruction can be used to characterize individual pathway enzymes, identify pathway intermediates, and gain an increased understanding of how pathways can be manipulated to generate natural product analogs. Moreover, through in vitro approaches, it is possible to achieve a diversification that is not restricted by toxicity, limited availability of intracellular precursors, or preconceived (by nature) regulatory controls. Additionally, combinatorial biosynthesis and high-throughput techniques can be used to generate both known natural products and analogs that would not likely be generated naturally. This current opinion review will focus on recent advances made in performing in vitro pathway-driven natural product diversification and opportunities for exploiting this approach for elucidating and entering this new chemical biology space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-195
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


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