Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 106, Issue 1–2, pp 89–102 | Cite as

Carotenoid biosynthesis in diatoms

  • Martine BertrandEmail author


Diatoms are ubiquitous and constitute an important group of the phytoplankton community having a major contribution to the total marine primary production. These microalgae exhibit a characteristic golden-brown colour due to a high amount of the xanthophyll fucoxanthin that plays a major role in the light-harvesting complex of photosystems. In the water column, diatoms are exposed to light intensities that vary quickly from lower to higher values. Xanthophyll cycles prevent photodestruction of the cells in excessive light intensities. In diatoms, the diadinoxanthin–diatoxanthin cycle is the most important short-term photoprotective mechanism. If the biosynthetic pathways of chloroplast pigments have been extensively studied in higher plants and green algae, the research on carotenoid biosynthesis in diatoms is still in its infancy. In this study, the data on the biosynthetic pathway of diatom carotenoids are reviewed. The early steps occur through the 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. Then a hypothetical pathway is suggested from dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP) and isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP). Most of the enzymes of the pathway have not been so far isolated from diatoms, but candidate genes for each of them were identified using protein similarity searches of genomic data.


Carotenoids Diadinoxanthin Diatoms Diatoxanthin MEP pathway Xanthophylls 





4-(Cytidine 5′-diphospho)-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol


2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate




Nonheme β-carotene hydroxylase


4-(Cytidine 5′-diphospho)-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase


4-Diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol synthase


Carotenoid isomerase


Cytochrome P450


Diadinoxanthin de-epoxidase




Diatoxanthin epoxidase


Dimethylallyl diphosphate


4-Diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate


1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate




1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase


1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase


Fucoxanthin–chlorophyll complex


Geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate


Geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase


(E)-4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate


(E)-4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate synthase


(E)-4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate reductase


4-Hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate


Isopentenyl diphosphate:dimethylallyl diphosphate isomerase


Isopentenyl pyrophosphate


Lycopene β-cyclase


Lycopene ε-cyclase


Light-harvesting complex


ε-Ring hydroxylase-like gene


ε-Ring hydroxylase


2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase


2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate


Mevalonate pathway




NADPH dehydrogenases


Non-photochemical quenching


Phytoene desaturase






Subunit S of the photosystem II


Phytoene synthase




Violaxanthin de-epoxidase




15-cis-ζ-carotene isomerase


ζ-Carotene desaturase




Zeaxanthin epoxidase


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MiMeTox, National Institute for Marine Sciences and Techniques, CNAMCherbourg-Octeville CedexFrance

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