Unique processes yielding pure azaphilones in Talaromyces atroroseus

Gerit Tolborg, Anders Sebastian Rosenkrans Ødum, Thomas Isbrandt, Thomas Ostenfeld Larsen, Mhairi Workman

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Azaphilones are a class of fungal pigments, reported mostly in association with Monascus species. In Asian countries, they are used as food colourants under the name of "red yeast rice" and their production process is well described. One major limitation of current production techniques of azaphilones is that they always occur in a mixture of yellow, orange and red pigments. These mixtures are difficult to control and to quantify. This study has established a controlled and reproducible cultivation protocol to selectively tailor production of individual pigments during a submerged fermentation using another fungal species capable of producing azaphilone pigments, Talaromyces atroroseus, using single amino acids as the sole nitrogen source. The produced azaphilone pigments are called atrorosins and are amino acid derivatives of the known azaphilone pigment Penicillium purpurogenum-orange (PP-O), with the amino acid used as nitrogen source incorporated into the core skeleton of the azaphilone. This strategy was successfully demonstrated using 18 proteinogenic amino acids and the non-proteinogenic amino acid ornithine. Two cultivation methods for production of the pure serine derivative (atrorosin S) have been further developed, with yields of 0.9 g/L being obtained. Yielding pure atrorosins through switching from KNO3 to single amino acids as nitrogen source allows for considerably easier downstream processing and thus further enhances the commercial relevance of azaphilone producing fungal cell factories.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Pages (from-to)603–613
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Filamentous fungi
  • Azaphilone pigments
  • Natural colourants
  • Amino acid derivative
  • Submerged cultivation
  • Red yeast rice

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