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PhD ceremony Ms. E. Melillo: Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous as a platform organism for the production of terpenes

When:Fr 01-03-2013 at 09:00

PhD ceremony: Ms. E. Melillo, 9.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous as a platform organism for the production of terpenes

Promotor(s): prof. O. Kayser, prof. W.J. Quax

Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous is a yeast used in industry for its capability to produce carotenoids with antioxidant properties. The research of Elena Melillo has focused on the possibility of using X. dendrorhous as an organism for the production of alternative compounds, chemically related to the carotenoids accumulated already by the yeast.

By transferring DNA from other organisms to this yeast, she has demonstrated that it can produce molecules with antibiotic properties. Furthermore, some of these compounds are produced by X. dendrorhous in amounts higher than the ones obtained with better known organisms, like Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Most of the compounds used in medicine, and produced by fungi or plants, have to undergo a series of small modifications by the action of specific enzymes. We chose to express the genes from the fungus Coprinus cinereus coding for two of such enzymes in X. dendrorhous. Melillo found out that when these enzymes are produced by the yeast, the newly synthesized compounds are modified in the same way as in the original producer, i.e. C. cinereus.

By providing the optimal tools for the transfer of DNA to X. dendrorhous and by showing that the yeast can use the new genetic information to produce specific compounds, Melillo has opened a path toward the utilization of this yeast as a “factory” for the accumulation of (rare) compounds with pharmacological properties.

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