Metabolic engineering to produce phytochromes with phytochromobilin, phycocyanobilin, or phycoerythrobilin chromophore in Escherichia coli

FEBS Lett. 2006 Feb 20;580(5):1333-8. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2006.01.051. Epub 2006 Jan 26.


By co-expression of heme oxygenase and various bilin reductase(s) in a single operon in conjunction with apophytochrome using two compatible plasmids, we developed a system to produce phytochromes with various chromophores in Escherichia coli. Through the selection of different bilin reductases, apophytochromes were assembled with phytochromobilin, phycocyanobilin, and phycoerythrobilin. The blue-shifted difference spectra of truncated phytochromes were observed with a phycocyanobilin chromophore compared to a phytochromobilin chromophore. When the phycoerythrobilin biosynthetic enzymes were co-expressed, E. coli cells accumulated orange-fluorescent phytochrome. The metabolic engineering of bacteria for the production of various bilins for assembly into phytochromes will facilitate the molecular analysis of photoreceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bile Pigments / biosynthesis
  • Biliverdine / analogs & derivatives
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemical synthesis
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing) / metabolism
  • Phycobilins
  • Phycocyanin
  • Phycoerythrin
  • Phytochrome / biosynthesis*
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Tetrapyrroles / biosynthesis*


  • Bile Pigments
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Phycobilins
  • Tetrapyrroles
  • Phycocyanin
  • Phycoerythrin
  • Phytochrome
  • phytochromobilin
  • phycoerythrobilin
  • phycocyanobilin
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing)
  • Biliverdine