Production of artemisinin by genetically-modified microbes

Qingping Zeng, Frank Qiu, Ling Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Artemisinin, an endoperoxidized sesquiterpene originally extracted from the medicinal plant Artemisia annua L., is a potent malaria-killing agent. Due to the urgent demand and short supply of this new antimalarial drug, engineering enhanced production of artemisinin by genetically-modified or transgenic microbes is currently being explored. Cloning and expression of the artemisinin biosynthetic genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Escherichia coli have led to large-scale microbial production of the artemisinin precursors such as amorpha-4,11-diene and artemisinic acid. Although reconstruction of the complete biosynthetic pathway toward artemisinin in transgenic yeast and bacteria has not been achieved, artemisinic acid available from these transgenic microbes facilitates the subsequent partial synthesis of artemisinin by either chemical or biotransformational process, thereby providing an attractive strategy alternative to the direct extraction of artemisinin from A.annua L. In this review, we update the current trends and summarize the future prospects on genetic engineering of the microorganisms capable of accumulating artemisinin precursors through heterologous and functional expression of the artemisinin biosynthetic genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-592
Number of pages12
JournalBiotechnology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This article was financially supported by the National Science. Foundation of China (NSFC) under the project numbers of 30672614 and 30271591.


  • Amorpha-4,11-diene
  • Artemisinic acid
  • Artemisinin
  • Genetic engineering
  • Malaria
  • Metabolic engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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