KEY MESSAGE: Our paper describes the potential roles of lipid droplets of Taxus media cell suspension in the biosynthesis and secretion of paclitaxel and, therefore, highlights their involvement in improving its production.
Paclitaxel (PTX) is a highly potent anticancer drug that is mainly produced using Taxus sp. cell suspension cultures. The main purpose of the current study is to characterize cellular LDs from T. media cell suspension with a particular focus on the biological connection of their associated proteins, the caleosins (CLOs), with the biosynthesis and secretion of PTX. A pure LD fraction obtained from T. media cells and characterized in terms of their proteome. Interestingly, the cellular LD in T. media sequester the PTX. This was confirmed in vitro, where about 96% of PTX (C0PTX,aq [mg L-1]) in the aqueous solution was partitioned into the isolated LDs. Furthermore, silencing of CLO-encoding genes in the T. media cells led to a net decrease in the number and size of LDs. This coincided with a significant reduction in expression levels of TXS, DBAT and DBTNBT, key genes in the PTX biosynthesis pathway. Subsequently, the biosynthesis of PTX was declined in cell culture. In contrast, treatment of cells with 13-hydroperoxide C18:3, a substrate of the peroxygenase activity, induced the expression of CLOs, and, therefore, the accumulation of cellular LDs in the T. media cells cultures, thus increasing the PTX secretion. The accumulation of stable LDs is critically important for effective secretion of PTX. This is modulated by the expression of caleosins, a class of LD-associated proteins with a dual role conferring the structural stability of LDs as well as regulating lipidic bioactive metabolites via their enzymatic activity, thus enhancing the biosynthesis of PTX.