Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 245–259 | Cite as

A portfolio of plasmids for identification and analysis of carotenoid pathway enzymes: Adonis aestivalis as a case study

  • Francis X. CunninghamJr.
  • Elisabeth Gantt
Research Article


Carotenoids are indispensable pigments of the photosynthetic apparatus in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria and are produced, as well, by many bacteria and fungi. Elucidation of biochemical pathways leading to the carotenoids that function in the photosynthetic membranes of land plants has been greatly aided by the use of carotenoid-accumulating strains of Escherichia coli as heterologous hosts for functional assays, in vivo, of the otherwise difficult to study membrane-associated pathway enzymes. This same experimental approach is uniquely well-suited to the discovery and characterization of yet-to-be identified enzymes that lead to carotenoids of the photosynthetic membranes in algal cells, to the multitude of carotenoids found in nongreen plant tissues, and to the myriad flavor and aroma compounds that are derived from carotenoids in plant tissues. A portfolio of plasmids suitable for the production in E. coli of a variety of carotenoids is presented herein. The use of these carotenoid-producing E. coli for the identification of cDNAs encoding enzymes of carotenoid and isoprenoid biosynthesis, for characterization of the enzymes these cDNAs encode, and for the production of specific carotenoids for use as enzyme substrates and reference standards, is described using the flowering plant Adonis aestivalis to provide examples. cDNAs encoding nine different A. aestivalis enzymes of carotenoid and isoprenoid synthesis were identified and the enzymatic activity of their products verified. Those cDNAs newly described include ones that encode phytoene synthase, β-carotene hydroxylase, deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate synthase, isopentenyl diphosphate isomerase, and geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase.


Adonis aestivalis Carotenoids Chloroplast Color complementation Escherichia coli Isoprenoids Phytoene Lycopene 



Carotenoid β-ring 4-oxygenase or ketolase


Carotenoid β-ring 3-hydroxylase of the nonheme diiron oxygenase type


Carotenoid β-ring 3-hydroxylase of the cytochrome P450 type


Carotenoid ε-ring 3-hydroxylase of the cytochrome P450 type


Carotene isomerase


Dimethylallyl diphosphate


1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate


1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase


1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase


Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase


Geranylgeranyl diphosphate


Geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase


Isopentenyl diphosphate isomerase


Isopentenyl diphosphate


Lycopene β-ring cyclase


Lycopene ε-ring cyclase


1-hydroxy-2-methyl-butenyl 4-diphosphate reductase (IspH)


2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2, 4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF)


Methylerythritol 4-phosphate


Neoxanthin synthase


Phytoene desaturase




Phosphoenolpyruvate synthase


Phytoene synthase


Violaxanthin de-epoxidase


ζ-carotene desaturase


Zeaxanthin epoxidase



The authors are grateful to Joseph Hirschberg (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) and Norihiko Misawa and Maki Teramoto (Marine Biology Institute, Iwate, Japan) for their generous gifts of plasmids containing a β-ring 4-ketolase cDNA from H. pluvialis (Lotan and Hirschberg 1995) and a lycopene β-ring monocyclase gene from marine bacterium P99-3 (Teramoto et al. 2003), and to the late Robert Tuveson for providing a plasmid (pPL376) that made much of this work possible. The work described in this manuscript was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (MCB-0316448) and the US Department of Energy (DE-FG02-98ER20302).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell Biology and Molecular GeneticsUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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