Isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) isomerase catalyzes an essential activation step in the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway. A database search based on probes from the highly conserved regions in three eukaryotic IPP isomerases revealed substantial similarity with ORF176 in the photosynthesis gene cluster in Rhodobacter capsulatus. The open reading frame was cloned into an Escherichia coli expression vector. The encoded 20-kDa protein, which was purified in two steps by ion exchange and hydrophobic interaction chromatography, catalyzed the interconversion of IPP and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Thus, the photosynthesis gene cluster encodes all of the enzymes required to incorporate IPP into the ultimate carotenoid and bacteriochlorophyll metabolites in R. capsulatus. More recent searches uncovered additional putative open reading frames for IPP isomerase in seed-bearing plants (Oryza sativa, Arabadopsis thaliana, and Clarkia breweri), a worm (Caenorhabiditis elegans), and another eubacterium (Escherichia coli). The R. capsulatus enzyme is the smallest of the IPP isomerases to be identified thus far and may consist mostly of a fundamental catalytic core for the enzyme
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