Original Paper

Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 184, Issue 4, pp 207-214

First online:

Carotenoid biosynthesis in Gloeobacter violaceus PCC4721 involves a single crtI-type phytoene desaturase instead of typical cyanobacterial enzymes

  • Sabine SteigerAffiliated withBiosynthesis Group, Botanical Institute 213, J.W. Goethe University
  • , Yvonne JackischAffiliated withBiosynthesis Group, Botanical Institute 213, J.W. Goethe University
  • , Gerhard SandmannAffiliated withBiosynthesis Group, Botanical Institute 213, J.W. Goethe University Email author 

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Gloeobacter violaceus is a cyanobacterium isolated from other groups by lack of thylakoids and unique structural features of its photosynthetic protein complexes. Carotenoid biosynthesis has been investigated with respect to the carotenoids formed and the genes and enzymes involved. Carotenoid analysis identified ß-carotene as major carotenoid and echinenone as a minor component. This composition is quite unique and the cellular amounts are up to 10-fold lower than in other unicellular cyanobacteria. Carotenoid biosynthesis is up-regulated in a light-dependent manner. This enhanced biosynthesis partially compensates for photooxidation especially of ß-carotene. The sequenced genome of G. violaceus was analyzed and several gene candidates homologous to carotenogenic genes from other organisms obtained. Functional expression of all candidates and complementation in Escherichia coli led to the identification of all genes involved in the biosynthesis of the G. violaceus carotenoids with the exception of the lycopene cyclase gene. An additional diketolase gene was found that functioned in E. coli but is silent in G. violaceus cells. The biggest difference from all other cyanobacteria is the existence of a single bacterial-type 4-step desaturase instead of the poly cis cyanobacterial desaturation pathway catalyzed by two cyanobacterial-type desaturases and an isomerase. The genes for these three enzymes are absent in G. violaceus.


Carotenogenic genes Carotenoid biosynthesis CrtI-type phytoene desaturase Echinenone Light regulation