Applied Genetics and Molecular Biotechnology

Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 90, Issue 6, pp 1963-1971

First online:

Characterization of a gene cluster and its putative promoter region for violacein biosynthesis in Pseudoalteromonas sp. 520P1

  • Xi ZhangAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Systems Engineering, Kochi University of Technology
  • , Keiichi EnomotoAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Systems Engineering, Kochi University of Technology Email author 

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Violacein, a purple pigment produced by some Gram-negative bacteria, has various physiological properties, such as antitrypanosomal and antitumoral activities. A gene cluster that encodes five enzymes, VioA–VioE, is responsible for synthesizing violacein. The expression of these enzymes is known to be regulated by a quorum sensing mechanism in Chromobacterium violaceum and Pseudoalteromonas sp. 520P1. To clarify the molecular mechanism of regulation of violacein synthesis, we cloned and characterized the gene cluster from Pseudoalteromonas sp. 520P1. A fosmid library of strain 520P1 was constructed and clones containing the gene cluster were isolated. The gene cluster was 7383 bp in length and encoded five enzyme genes, vioAvioE. A putative promoter sequence was predicted in the upstream region of the cluster. In the promoter region, two contiguous palindromic sequences, a possible quorum sensing regulatory site, were found. However, the isolated Escherichia coli clones harboring the gene cluster and its upstream region were unable to produce violacein probably due to the lack of quorum sensing machinery for expression. To further examine the ability of vioAvioE genes to synthesize violacein in vivo, the upstream promoter region was removed from the cluster and heterologous expression of the treated cluster was performed in E. coli using a recombinant pET vector with T7 promoter. Purple pigment was expressed, and the pigment was identified to be violacein using ultraviolet and visible light and HPLC analysis. These results will contribute to further studies regarding violacein biosynthesis and its mass production.


Violacein Pseudoalteromonas Gene cluster Fosmid library Promoter prediction Heterologous expression