Towards a synthetic biology toolset for metallocluster enzymes in biosynthetic pathways: What we know and what we need

Helena Shomar, Gregory Bokinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Microbes are routinely engineered to synthesize high-value chemicals from renewable materials through synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. Microbial biosynthesis often relies on expression of heterologous biosynthetic pathways, i.e., enzymes transplanted from foreign organisms. Metallocluster enzymes are one of the most ubiquitous family of enzymes involved in natural product biosynthesis and are of great biotechnological importance. However, the functional expression of recombinant metallocluster enzymes in live cells is often challenging and represents a major bottleneck. The activity of metallocluster enzymes requires essential supporting pathways, involved in protein maturation, electron supply, and/or enzyme stability. Proper function of these supporting pathways involves specific protein–protein interactions that remain poorly characterized and are often overlooked by traditional synthetic biology approaches. Consequently, engineering approaches that focus on enzymatic expression and carbon flux alone often overlook the particular needs of metallocluster enzymes. This review highlights the biotechnological relevance of metallocluster enzymes and discusses novel synthetic biology strategies to advance their industrial application, with a particular focus on iron-sulfur cluster enzymes. Strategies to enable functional heterologous expression and enhance recombinant metallocluster enzyme activity in industrial hosts include: (1) optimizing specific maturation pathways; (2) improving catalytic stability; and (3) enhancing electron transfer. In addition, we suggest future directions for developing microbial cell factories that rely on metallocluster enzyme catalysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6930
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Electron transfer
  • Enzyme maturation
  • FeS cluster
  • Heterologous expres-sion
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Metallocluster enzymes
  • Microbial biosynthesis
  • Synthetic biology


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