Plant secondary metabolites exhibit a variety of biological activities and therefore serve as valuable therapeutics or flavoring compounds. However, the small amounts isolated from plants often cannot meet market demands. This led to the exploration of other, more profitable methods for their production, including plant cell culture systems, chemical synthesis and biotechnological production in microbial hosts. The biotechnological production can be pursued by reconstructing metabolic pathways in selected microbial systems. But due to their complexity, most of these pathways are not completely understood and require the expression of a multitude of genes in a foreign organism. Recently, next generation sequencing data and advances in gene silencing in plants allowed the elucidation of some biosynthetic pathways in more detail. Thus, the de novo production of some natural products, including morphine, strictosidine, artemisinin, taxol® and resveratrol, in extensively engineered microbial hosts has become feasible. This review highlights the reconstruction of these pathways, missing pieces and novel techniques employed.
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