Carotenoids have two major functions in bacterial photosynthesis, photoprotection and accessory light harvesting. The genes encoding many carotenoid biosynthetic pathways have now been mapped and cloned in several different species, and the availability of cloned genes which encode the biosynthesis of carotenoids not found in the photosynthetic genus Rhodobacter opens up the possibility of introducing a wider range of foreign carotenoids into the bacterial photosynthetic apparatus than would normally be available by producing mutants of the native biosynthetic pathway. For example, the crt genes from Erwinia herbicola, a gram-negative nonphotosynthetic bacterium which produces carotenoids in the sequence of phytoene, lycopene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and zeaxanthin glucosides, are clustered within a 12.8-kb region and have been mapped and partially sequenced. In this paper, part of the E. herbicola crt cluster has been excised and expressed in various crt strains of Rhodobacter sphaeroides. This has produced light-harvesting complexes with a novel carotenoid composition, in which the foreign carotenoids such as beta-carotene function successfully in light harvesting. The outcome of the combination of the crt genes in R. sphaeroides with those from E. herbicola has, in some cases, resulted in an interesting rerouting of the expected biosynthetic sequence, which has also provided insights into how the various enzymes of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway might interact. Clearly this approach has considerable potential for studies on the control and organization of carotenoid biosynthesis, as well as providing novel pigment-protein complexes for functional studies
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