Development of a recombinant Escherichia coli strain for overproduction of the plant pigment anthocyanin

Chin Giaw Lim, Lynn Wong, Namita Bhan, Hila Dvora, Peng Xu, Sankaranarayanan Venkiteswaran, Mattheos A.G. Koffas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Anthocyanins are water-soluble colored pigments found in terrestrial plants and are responsible for the red, blue, and purple coloration of many flowers and fruits. In addition to the plethora of health benefits associated with anthocyanins (cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiaging properties), these compounds have attracted widespread attention due to their promising potential as natural food colorants. Previously, we reported the biotransformation of anthocyanin, specifically cyanidin 3-O-glucoside (C3G), from the substrate (+)-catechin in Escherichia coli. In the present work, we set out to systematically improve C3G titers by enhancing substrate and precursor availability, balancing gene expression level, and optimizing cultivation and induction parameters. We first identified E. coli transporter proteins that are responsible for the uptake of catechin and secretion of C3G. We then improved the expression of the heterologous pathway enzymes anthocyanidin synthase (ANS) and 3-O-glycosyltransferase (3GT) using a bicistronic expression cassette. Next, we augmented the intracellular availability of the critical precursor UDP-glucose, which has been known as the rate-limiting precursor to produce glucoside compounds. Further optimization of culture and induction conditions led to a final titer of 350 mg/liter of C3G. We also developed a convenient colorimetric assay for easy screening of C3G overproducers. The work reported here constitutes a promising foundation to develop a cost-effective process for large-scale production of plant-derived anthocyanin from recombinant microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6276-6284
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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