Progress on molecular breeding and metabolic engineering of biosynthesis pathways of C(30), C(35), C(40), C(45), C(50) carotenoids

Fei Wang, Jian Guo Jiang, Qian Chen
Biotechnology Advances 2007, 25 (3): 211-22
At least 700 natural carotenoids have been characterized; they can be classified into C(30), C(40) and C(50) subfamilies. The first step of C(40) pathway is the combination of two molecules of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate to synthesize phytoene by phytoene synthase (CrtB or PSY). Most natural carotenoids originate from different types and levels of desaturation by phytoene desaturase (CrtI or PDS+ZDS), cyclization by lycopene cyclase (CrtY or LYC) and other modifications by different modifying enzyme (CrtA, CrtU, CrtZ or BCH, CrtX, CrtO, etc.) of this C(40) backbone. The first step of C(30) pathway is the combination of two molecules of FDP to synthesize diapophytoene by diapophytoene synthase (CrtM). But natural C(30) pathway only goes through a few steps of desaturation to form diaponeurosporene by diapophytoene desaturase (CrtN). Natural C(50) carotenoid decaprenoxanthin is synthesized starting from the C(40) carotenoid lycopene by the addition of 2 C(5) units. Concerned the importance of carotenoids, more and more attention has been concentrated on achieving novel carotenoids. The method being used successfully is to construct carotenoids biosynthesis pathways by metabolic engineering. The strategy of metabolic engineering is to engineer a small number of stringent upstream enzymes (CrtB, CrtI, CrtY, CrtM, or CrtN), then use a lot of promiscuous downstream enzymes to obtain large number of novel carotenoids. Two key enzymes phytoene desaturase (CrtI(m)) and lycopene cyclase (CrtY(m)) have been modified and used with a series of downstream modifying enzymes with broad substrate specificity, such as monooxygenase (CrtA), carotene desaturase (CrtU), carotene hydroxylase (CrtZ), zeaxanthin glycosylase (CrtX) and carotene ketolase (CrtO) to extend successfully natural C(30) and C(40) pathways in E. coli. Existing C(30) synthase CrtM to synthesize carotenoids with different chain length have been engineered and a series of novel carotenoids have been achieved using downstream modifying enzymes. C(35) carotenoid biosynthesis pathway has been constructed in E. coli as described. C(45) and C(50) carotenoid biosynthesis pathways have also been constructed in E. coli, but it is still necessary to extend these two pathways. Those novel acyclic or cyclic carotenoids have a potential ability to protect against photooxidation and radical-mediated peroxidation reactions which makes them interesting pharmaceutical candidates.

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