Astaxanthin is one of the strongest natural antioxidants and a red pigment occurring in nature. This C40 carotenoid is used in a broad range of applications such as a colorant in the feed industry, an antioxidant in cosmetics or as a supplement in human nutrition. Natural astaxanthin is on the rise and, hence, alternative production systems are needed. The natural carotenoid producer Corynebacterium glutamicum
is a potent host for industrial fermentations, such as million-ton scale amino acid production. In C. glutamicum
, astaxanthin production was established through heterologous overproduction of the cytosolic lycopene cyclase CrtY and the membrane-bound β-carotene hydroxylase and ketolase, CrtZ and CrtW, in previous studies. In this work, further metabolic engineering strategies revealed that the potential of this GRAS organism for astaxanthin production is not fully exploited yet. It was shown that the construction of a fusion protein comprising the membrane-bound β-carotene hydroxylase and ketolase (CrtZ~W) significantly increased astaxanthin production under high glucose concentration. An evaluation of used carbon sources indicated that a combination of glucose and acetate facilitated astaxanthin production. Moreover, additional overproduction of cytosolic carotenogenic enzymes increased the production of this high value compound. Taken together, a seven-fold improvement of astaxanthin production was achieved with 3.1 mg/g CDW of astaxanthin.
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