Engineering the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum for biosynthesis of a cannabinoid precursor and other polyketides

Nat Biotechnol. 2022 May;40(5):751-758. doi: 10.1038/s41587-021-01143-8. Epub 2022 Jan 6.


Aromatic polyketides are natural polyphenolic compounds with a broad spectrum of pharmacological activities. Production of those metabolites in the model organisms Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been limited by the extensive cellular engineering needed for the coordinated biosynthesis of polyketides and their precursors. In contrast, the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum is a native producer of secondary metabolites and harbors a wide, but largely unexplored, repertoire of genes for the biosynthesis of polyketides and terpenoids. Here we present D. discoideum as an advantageous chassis for the production of aromatic polyketides. By expressing its native and cognate plant polyketide synthase genes in D. discoideum, we demonstrate production of phlorocaprophenone, methyl-olivetol, resveratrol and olivetolic acid (OA), which is the central intermediate in the biosynthesis of cannabinoids. To facilitate OA synthesis, we further engineered an amoeba/plant inter-kingdom hybrid enzyme that produced OA from primary metabolites in two enzymatic steps, providing a shortcut in a synthetic cannabinoid pathway using the D. discoideum host system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba* / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Dictyostelium* / genetics
  • Dictyostelium* / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Polyketide Synthases / genetics
  • Polyketide Synthases / metabolism
  • Polyketides* / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Polyketides
  • Polyketide Synthases