Molecular Characterization and Functional Analysis of Cytochrome b5 Reductase (CBR) Encoding Genes from the Carotenogenic Yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous

The eukaryotic microsomal cytochrome P450 systems consist of a cytochrome P450 enzyme (P450) and a cytochrome P450 redox partner, which generally is a cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) that supplies electrons from NADPH. However, alternative electron donors may exist such as cytochrome b5 reductase and cytochrome b5 (CBR and CYB5, respectively) via, which is NADH-dependent and are also anchored to the endoplasmic reticulum. In the carotenogenic yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, three P450-encoding genes have been described: crtS is involved in carotenogenesis and the CYP51 and CYP61 genes are both implicated in ergosterol biosynthesis. This yeast has a single CPR (encoded by the crtR gene), and a crtR- mutant does not produce astaxanthin. Considering that this mutant is viable, the existence of alternative cytochrome P450 electron donors like CBR and CYB5 could operate in this yeast. The aim of this work was to characterize the X. dendrorhous CBR encoding gene and to study its involvement in P450 reactions in ergosterol and carotenoid biosynthesis. Two CBRs genes were identified (CBR.1 and CBR.2), and deletion mutants were constructed. The two mutants and the wild-type strain showed similar sterol production, with ergosterol being the main sterol produced. The crtR- mutant strain produced a lower proportion of ergosterol than did the parental strain. These results indicate that even though one of the two CBR genes could be involved in ergosterol biosynthesis, crtR complements their absence in the cbr- mutant strains, at least for ergosterol production. The higher NADH-dependent cytochrome c reductase activity together with the higher transcript levels of CBR.1 and CYB5 in the crtR- mutant as well as the lower NADH-dependent activity in CBS-cbr.1- strongly suggest that CBR.1-CYB5 via participates as an alternative electron donor pathway for P450 enzymes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis in X. dendrorhous.