Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.75, No.6, 1377-1384, 2007
Functional analysis of genes involved in the biosynthesis of isoprene in Bacillus subtilis
In comparison to other bacteria Bacillus subtilis emits the volatile compound isoprene in high concentrations. Isoprene is the smallest representative of the natural product group of terpenoids. A search in the genome of B. subtilis resulted in a set of genes with yet unknown function, but putatively involved in the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway to isoprene. Further identification of these genes would give the possibility to engineer B. subtilis as a host cell for the production of terpenoids like the valuable plant-produced drugs artemisinin and paclitaxel. Conditional knock-out strains of putative genes were analyzed for the amount of isoprene emitted. Differences in isoprene emission were used to identify the function of the enzymes and of the corresponding selected genes in the MEP pathway. We give proof on a biochemical level that several of these selected genes from this species are involved in isoprene biosynthesis. This opens the possibilities to investigate the physiological function of isoprene emission and to increase the endogenous flux to the terpenoid precursors, isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate, for the heterologous production of more complex terpenoids in B. subtilis.