We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Carotenoid Biosynthesis?

By Vincent Summers
Updated Jan 31, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Terpenoids, also called isoprenoids, are organic compounds whose carbon skeleton is derived by linking isoprene (CH2=C(CH3)CH=CH2) units together. Carotenoids, one subtype of terpenoids, are categorized as 30-C, 40-C and so forth, based on their number of skeletal carbon atoms. They can be manufactured in the laboratory by biosynthesis, sometimes called biogenesis, imitating the processes found in nature. Starting with small and simple molecules, such as isopentenyl diphosphate, additions occur stepwise in the presence of catalytic enzymes, until the end-products are reached. Although the reactions are known by their chemical pathway, manufacture may involve the use of microbes.

Carotenoids — including β-carotene, lycopene and the xanthophylls — are yellow-to-red colorants, which occur in carrots, apricots, spinach and other fruits and vegetables. They serve two known essential purposes. Since they absorb light at the blue end of the spectrum, carotenoids extend the range of frequency at which plants can engage in photosynthesis; they also protect the green pigment from oxidative photolytic damage. In addition to their antioxidant properties, some carotenoids possess Vitamin A activity. Foods rich in carotenoids tend to be low in lipids.

Synthesis of carotenoids in nature is accomplished by one of two known processes: one is the mevalonate, the other is the non-mevalonate carotenoid biosynthesis pathway. Both pathways are similar once they reach isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP). The next step is conversion into dimethylallyl pyrophosphate (DMPP), then geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and, finally, the 15-carbon species, farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP). This serves as the intermediate in further carotenoid biosynthesis steps. Two of the 15-carbon structures can be joined to form 30-C carotenoids using a catalyst.

If the intent is rather to produce 40-C or 50-C carotenoids, the farnesyl diphosphate receives another IPP to form the 20-carbon atom intermediate, geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP). This is then enzymatically added to itself to produce the 40-C phytoene, which can be rearranged to lycopene. Once lycopene is reached, there are a variety of synthetic pathways to differing end-results. Lycopene can be added to further to produce the 50-C carotenoids. Alternatively, structures can be kept to 40 carbons and be catalytically converted into α-carotene or β-carotene, which initiate the third and fourth route.

Knowledge of the pathways of carotenoid biosynthesis has existed for decades. It was not, however, until the 1990s that gene encoding for the enzymes was sufficiently identified to make industrial manufacture using the methods found in nature practical. Gene cloning has been accomplished for each of the steps of carotenoid biosynthesis, down to the manufacture of the xanthophylls. Molecular biologists believe the carotenoid pathway in plants may be manipulable via gene-transfer technology. This would enable easier and cheaper carotenoid biosynthesis methodologies.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.