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J Bacteriol. 2010 Nov;192(21):5688-99. doi: 10.1128/JB.00724-10. Epub 2010 Aug 27.

Biosynthetic pathway for γ-cyclic sarcinaxanthin in Micrococcus luteus: heterologous expression and evidence for diverse and multiple catalytic functions of C(50) carotenoid cyclases.

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Department of Biotechnology, SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, Sem Sælands vei 2a, NO-7465 Trondheim, Norway.


We report the cloning and characterization of the biosynthetic gene cluster (crtE, crtB, crtI, crtE2, crtYg, crtYh, and crtX) of the γ-cyclic C(50) carotenoid sarcinaxanthin in Micrococcus luteus NCTC2665. Expression of the complete and partial gene cluster in Escherichia coli hosts revealed that sarcinaxanthin biosynthesis from the precursor molecule farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP) proceeds via C(40) lycopene, C(45) nonaflavuxanthin, C(50) flavuxanthin, and C(50) sarcinaxanthin. Glucosylation of sarcinaxanthin was accomplished by the crtX gene product. This is the first report describing the biosynthetic pathway of a γ-cyclic C(50) carotenoid. Expression of the corresponding genes from the marine M. luteus isolate Otnes7 in a lycopene-producing E. coli host resulted in the production of up to 2.5 mg/g cell dry weight sarcinaxanthin in shake flasks. In an attempt to experimentally understand the specific difference between the biosynthetic pathways of sarcinaxanthin and the structurally related ε-cyclic decaprenoxanthin, we constructed a hybrid gene cluster with the γ-cyclic C(50) carotenoid cyclase genes crtYg and crtYh from M. luteus replaced with the analogous ε-cyclic C(50) carotenoid cyclase genes crtYe and crtYf from the natural decaprenoxanthin producer Corynebacterium glutamicum. Surprisingly, expression of this hybrid gene cluster in an E. coli host resulted in accumulation of not only decaprenoxanthin, but also sarcinaxanthin and the asymmetric ε- and γ-cyclic C(50) carotenoid sarprenoxanthin, described for the first time in this work. Together, these data contributed to new insight into the diverse and multiple functions of bacterial C(50) carotenoid cyclases as key catalysts for the synthesis of structurally different carotenoids.

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