Synthetic biology approaches achieving the reconstruction of specific plant natural product biosynthetic pathways in dedicated microbial "chassis" have provided access to important industrial compounds (e.g., artemisinin, resveratrol, vanillin). However, the potential of such production systems to facilitate elucidation of plant biosynthetic pathways has been underexplored. Here we report on the application of a modular terpene production platform in the characterization of the biosynthetic pathway leading to the potent antioxidant carnosic acid and related diterpenes inSalvia pomiferaandRosmarinus officinalis.Four cytochrome P450 enzymes are identified (CYP76AH24, CYP71BE52, CYP76AK6, and CYP76AK8), the combined activities of which account for all of the oxidation events leading to the biosynthesis of the major diterpenes produced in these plants. This approach develops yeast as an efficient tool to harness the biotechnological potential of the numerous sequencing datasets that are increasingly becoming available through transcriptomic or genomic studies.
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