Orange, red, yellow: Biosynthesis of azaphilone pigments in Monascus fungi

Wanping Chen, Runfa Chen, Qingpei Liu, Yi He, Kun He, Xiaoli Ding, Lijing Kang, Xiaoxiao Guo, Nana Xie, Youxiang Zhou, Yuanyuan Lu, Russell J. Cox, Istvan Molnar, Mu Li, Yanchun Shao, Fusheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations


Monascus azaphilone pigments (MonAzPs) are very widely used as food colorants, but their biosynthetic pathway has remained poorly characterized for more than half a century. In this study, the individual steps of MonAzPs biosynthesis in Monascus ruber M7 were elucidated by a combination of targeted gene knockouts, heterologous gene expression, and in vitro chemical and enzymatic reactions. This study describes the first rational engineering of MonAzPs biosynthesis and provides a roadmap for future pathway engineering efforts directed towards the selective production of the most valuable pigments and serves as a model for the biosynthesis of fungal azaphilones in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4917-4925
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)

Cite this

Chen, W., Chen, R., Liu, Q., He, Y., He, K., Ding, X., ... Chen, F. (2017). Orange, red, yellow: Biosynthesis of azaphilone pigments in Monascus fungi. Chemical Science, 8(7), 4917-4925.