Two genes which encode the enzymes lycopene cyclase and phytoene desaturase in the aerobic photosynthetic bacterium Erythrobacter longus sp. strain Och101 have been cloned and sequenced. The gene for lycopene cyclase, designated crtY, was expressed in a strain of Escherichia coli which contained the crtE, B, I and Z genes encoding geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase, phytoene synthase, phytoene desaturase, and β-carotene hydroxylase, respectively. As a result, zeaxanthin production was observed in E. coli transformants. In addition, expression of the E. longus gene crtI for phytoene desaturase in E. coli containing crtE and B resulted in the accumulation of lycopene in transformants. Zeaxanthin and lycopene were also determined by mass spectrum. Nucleotide sequence similarities between E. longus crtY gene and other microbial lycopene cyclase genes are 40.2% (Erwinia herbicola), 37.4% (Erwinia uredovora) and 22.9% (Synechococcus sp.), and those between phytoene desaturase genes are 50.3% (E. herbicola), 54.7% (E. uredovora) and 39.6% (Rhodobacter capsulatus).
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