Published September 10, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Engineering carotenoid production in mammalian cells for nutritionally enhanced cell-cultured foods

  • 1. Biomedical Engineering Department, Tissue Engineering Resource Center, Tufts University


Metabolic engineering of mammalian cells has to-date focused primarily on biopharmaceutical protein production or the manipulation of native metabolic processes towards therapeutic aims. However, significant potential exists for expanding these techniques to diverse applications by looking across the taxonomic tree to bioactive metabolites not synthesized in animals. Namely, cross-taxa metabolic engineering of mammalian cells could offer value in applications ranging food and nutrition to regenerative medicine or gene therapy. Towards the former, recent advances in meat production through cell culture suggest the potential to produce meat with fine cellular control, where tuning composition through cross-taxa metabolic engineering could enhance nutrition and food-functionality. Here we demonstrate this possibility by engineering primary bovine and immortalized murine muscle cells with prokaryotic enzymes to endogenously produce the antioxidant carotenoids phytoene, lycopene and β-carotene. These phytonutrients offer general nutritive value and protective effects against diseases associated with red and processed meat consumption, and so offer a promising proof-of-concept for nutritional engineering in cultured meat. We demonstrate the phenotypic integrity of engineered cells, the ability to tune carotenoid yields, and antioxidant functionality of these compounds in vitro towards both nutrition and food-quality objectives. Our results demonstrate the potential for tailoring the nutritional profile of cultured meats. They further lay a foundation for heterologous metabolic engineering of mammalian cells for applications outside of the clinical realm.


This document is the Authors Accepted Manuscript (or "postprint") and may have minor differences from the Version of Record due to final copyedits. The final published version can be accessed at



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