Plant & cell physiology

Opposite chirality of α-carotene in unusual cyanobacteria with unique chlorophylls, Acaryochloris and Prochlorococcus.

PMID 22968452


Among all photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic prokaryotes, only cyanobacterial species belonging to the genera Acaryochloris and Prochlorococcus have been reported to synthesize α-carotene. We reviewed the carotenoids, including their chirality, in unusual cyanobacteria containing diverse Chls. Predominantly Chl d-containing Acaryochloris (two strains) and divinyl-Chl a and divinyl-Chl b-containing Prochlorococcus (three strains) contained β-carotene and zeaxanthin as well as α-carotene, whereas Chl b-containing Prochlorothrix (one strain) and Prochloron (three isolates) contained only β-carotene and zeaxanthin but no α-carotene as in other cyanobacteria. Thus, the capability to synthesize α-carotene seemed to have been acquired only by Acaryochloris and Prochlorococcus. In addition, we unexpectedly found that α-carotene in both cyanobacteria had the opposite chirality at C-6': (6'S)-chirality in Acaryochloris and normal (6'R)-chirality in Prochlorococcus, as reported in some green algae and land plants. The results represent the first evidence for the natural occurrence and biosynthesis of (6'S)-α-carotene. All the zeaxanthins in these species were of the usual (3R,3'R)-chirality. Therefore, based on the identification of the carotenoids and genome sequence data, we propose a biosynthetic pathway for the carotenoids, particularly α-carotene, including the participating genes and enzymes.