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Open Access Highly Accessed Editorial

Systems metabolic engineering, industrial biotechnology and microbial cell factories

Sang Yup Lee1, Diethard Mattanovich23 and Antonio Villaverde456*

Author Affiliations

1 Metabolic and Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (BK21 program), BioProcess Engineering Research Center, and Center for Systems and Synthetic Biotechnology, Institute for the BioCentury, KAIST, 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 305-701, Republic of Korea

2 Department of Biotechnology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Muthgasse 18, Vienna, 1190, Austria

3 Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB), Vienna, Austria

4 Institut de Biotecnologia i de Biomedicina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, 08193, Spain

5 Department de Genètica i de Microbiologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, 08193, Spain

6 CIBER de Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBER-BBN), Bellaterra, Barcelona, 08193, Spain

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Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:156  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-156

Published: 11 December 2012

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

Cell factories have been largely exploited for the controlled production of substances of interest for food, pharma and biotech industries. Although human-controlled microbial production and transformation are much older, the cell factory concept was fully established in the 80’s through the intensive public and private investment. Strongly empowered by the then nascent recombinant DNA technologies and supported by the approval of recombinant insulin [1,2], the principle of controlled biological production as a convenient source of difficult-to-obtain molecules (especially those of high added value) deeply penetrated the industrial tissue, soon becoming a widespread platform aiming at cost-effective large-scale production [3]. The first generation cell factories (mainly composed by plain strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae) were soon replaced by engineered variants. Resulting from the application of untargeted mutagenesis and phenotypic selection, conventional genetic modification, metabolic engineering, and more recently by systems metabolic engineering that integrates metabolic engineering with systems biology and synthetic biology, new strains having much enhanced performance have been progressively developed [4-19]. In parallel, mammalian and insect cells for the production of high quality proteins, and other microbial species appealing from an industrial point of view due to their unusual physiological traits, have been incorporated to the cell factory family [20,21]. This comprises algae, fungi, psychrophilic bacteria and moss, among others [22-26]. On the other hand, a set of food-grade lactic acid bacteria are under development as emerging platforms in food microbiology but also as a novel source of metabolites and proteins [27-34]. The physiological diversity of the microbial world offers an intricacy of biosynthetic pathways from which novel bio-products, including nano- or micro-structured materials [35-37], offer promises in even more diverse applications.