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Isolation and characterization of a stress-inducible Dunaliella salina Lcy-β gene encoding a functional lycopene β-cyclase


The halotolerant green alga Dunaliella salina accumulates large amounts of β-carotene when exposed to various stress conditions. Although several studies concerning accumulation and biotechnological production of β-carotene have been published, the molecular basis and regulation of the genes involved in carotenoid biosynthesis in D. salina are still poorly known. In this paper, we report the isolation and regulation of the lycopene β-cyclase (Lcy-β) gene by abiotic stress. The function of this gene was determined by heterologous genetic complementation in E. coli. Gene expression and physiological analyses revealed that D. salina Lcy-β steady-state transcript and carotenoid levels were up-regulated in response to all stress conditions tested (salt, light and nutrient depletion). The results presented here suggest that nutrient availability is a key factor influencing carotenogenesis as well as carotenoid biosynthesis-related gene expression in D. salina.

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We thank Dr. F. X. Cunningham, University of Maryland, for providing the complementation plasmid pAC-LCY. Ana Ramos and Sacha Coesel were supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal, with the studentships SFRH/BD/13937/2003 and SFRH/BD/4839/2001, respectively. This work was financed by OVERCAROTEN POCTI/MAR/15237/99 and INTERREG 159-SAL—Atlantic Salt Ponds.

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Correspondence to João Varela.

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Ramos, A., Coesel, S., Marques, A. et al. Isolation and characterization of a stress-inducible Dunaliella salina Lcy-β gene encoding a functional lycopene β-cyclase. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 79, 819 (2008).

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  • Carotenoid biosynthesis
  • Dunaliella salina
  • Lycopene β-cyclase
  • Gene expression
  • Stress response regulation