Metabolic engineering of higher plants and algae for isoprenoid production

Chase Kempinski, Zuodong Jiang, Stephen Bell, Joe Chappell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Isoprenoids are a class of compounds derived from the five carbon precursors, dimethylallyl diphosphate, and isopentenyl diphosphate. These molecules present incredible natural chemical diversity, which can be valuable for humans in many aspects such as cosmetics, agriculture, and medicine. However, many terpenoids are only produced in small quantities by their natural hosts and can be difficult to generate synthetically. Therefore, much interest and effort has been directed toward capturing the genetic blueprint for their biochemistry and engineering it into alternative hosts such as plants and algae. These autotrophic organisms are attractive when compared to traditional microbial platforms because of their ability to utilize atmospheric CO2 as a carbon substrate instead of supplied carbon sources like glucose. This chapter will summarize important techniques and strategies for engineering the accumulation of isoprenoid metabolites into higher plants and algae by choosing the correct host, avoiding endogenous regulatory mechanisms, and optimizing potential flux into the target compound. Future endeavors will build on these efforts by fine-tuning product accumulation levels via the vast amount of available “-omic” data and devising metabolic engineering schemes that integrate this into a whole-organism approach. With the development of high-throughput transformation protocols and synthetic biology molecular tools, we have only begun to harness the power and utility of plant and algae metabolic engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-199
Number of pages39
JournalAdvances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work from the Chappell laboratory mentioned in this chapter has been supported by the USDA, DOE, NSF, and by Sapphire Energy, Inc. The authors are also grateful for the many insightful discussions with past and current members of the Chappell laboratory.

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015.


  • Algae
  • Carbon neutral
  • Engineering
  • Genetic engineering
  • Genetically modified
  • Isoprenoids
  • Metabolic
  • Metabolism
  • Mevalonic acid
  • Mitochondria
  • Natural products
  • Organisms
  • Pathway
  • Phosphate pathway
  • Plastid
  • Prenyl transferase
  • Sub-cellular
  • Synthase
  • Synthetic biology
  • Terpene
  • Terpenoids
  • Tissue-specific
  •   Methylerythritol
  •  Biotechnology
  •  Plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic engineering of higher plants and algae for isoprenoid production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this