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Eur J Biochem. 2001 Jul;268(13):3702-8.

Expression and functional analysis of a gene cluster involved in the synthesis of decaprenoxanthin reveals the mechanisms for C50 carotenoid formation.

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Botanisches Institut, Goethe Universit├Ąt, Frankfurt, Germany.


Corynebacterium glutamicum accumulates the C50 carotenoid decaprenoxanthin. Rescued DNA from transposon color mutants of this Gram-positive bacterium was used to clone the carotenoid biosynthetic gene cluster. By sequence comparison and functional complementation, the genes involved in the synthesis of carotenoids with 50 carbon atoms were identified. The genes crtE, encoding a geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase, crtB, encoding a phytoene synthase, and crtI, encoding a phytoene desaturase, are responsible for the formation of lycopene. The products of three novel genes, crtYe and crtYf, with sequence similarities to heterodimeric lycopene cyclase crtYc and crtYd, together with crtEb which exhibits a prenyl transferase motif, were involved in the conversion of C40 acyclic lycopene to cyclic C50 carotenoids. Using functional complementation in Escherichia coli, it could be shown that the elongation of lycopene to the acyclic C50 carotenoid flavuxanthin by the addition of C5 isoprenoid units at positions C-2 and C-2' is catalyzed by the crtEb gene product. Subsequently, the gene products of crtYe and crtYf in a concerted action convert the acyclic flavuxanthin into the cyclic C50 carotene, decaprenoxanthin, forming two epsilon-ionone groups. The mechanisms, involving two individual steps for the formation of cyclic C50 carotenoids from lycopene, are proposed on the basis of these results.

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