Miller, J. K., Harrison, M. T., D’Andrea, A., Endsley, A. N., Yin, F. F., Kodukula, K., & Watson, D. S. (2013). Beta-carotene biosynthesis in probiotic bacteria. Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins, 5(2), 69-80. doi: 10.1007/s12602-013-9133-3
Susceptibility to deadly diarrheal diseases is partly due to widespread pediatric vitamin A deficiency. To increase vitamin A coverage in malnourished children, we propose to engineer a probiotic bacterium that will produce β-carotene in the intestine, which will be metabolized to vitamin A. Such a therapy has the potential to broadly stimulate mucosal immunity and simultaneously reduce the incidence and duration of diarrheal disease. To that end, a β-carotene-producing variant of the probiotic Escherichia coli strain Nissle 1917 (EcN-BETA) was generated. Notably, the strain produces β-carotene under anaerobic conditions, reflective of the gut environment. EcN-BETA also retains β-carotene production capability after lyophilization, suggesting that it may be amenable to dry formulation. Moreover, EcN-BETA activates murine dendritic cells in vitro, suggesting that the presence of β-carotene may not diminish the immunostimulatory capacity of EcN. Finally, we present a framework through which further improvements may enable approaches such as the one described in this report to yield innovative life-saving therapies for the developing world.