A novel three-stage light irradiation strategy in the submerged fermentation of medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum for the efficient production of bioactive metabolites ganoderic acid (GA) and Ganoderma polysaccharides was developed. Significance of light quality, i.e., blue light (390-500 nm, lambda(max) = 470 nm), red light (560-700 nm, lambda(max) = 625 nm), and white light (400-740 nm, lambda(max) = 550 nm), was studied at first. Interestingly, there was a gradual decrease trend of GA content after the culture of day 2 when the maximal GA content was obtained, while GA content decreased slowly under white light irradiation after day 6. The dark environment was favorable to the specific GA biosynthesis (i.e., GA content) before day 6, and after that the optimum was white light irradiation. A relatively lower irradiation density of white light (i.e., 0.94 and 2.82 W/m(2)) was beneficial for the specific GA biosynthesis before day 6, while GA content was higher under higher irradiation density of white light (i.e., 4.70 and 9.40 W/m(2)) at the later-stage of cultivation. 4.70 W/m(2) white light irradiation culture was the best from the viewpoint of GA accumulation. Therefore, a two-stage light irradiation strategy by combing the first 2 days dark culture with the following 4.70 W/m(2) white light irradiation culture was developed. The highest GA production in the two-stage culture was 276.0 +/- 12.5 mg/L, which was increased by 19% compared to 4.70 W/m(2) white light irradiation culture (i.e., 232.4 +/- 15.8 mg/L) and by 178% compared to the dark culture (i.e., 99.4 +/- 1.0 mg/L). Although there still existed a gradual decrease trend of GA content after day 2 when the maximal GA content was obtained in the two-stage culture. Following three-stage light irradiation strategy was further demonstrated in order to turn around the sharp decrease of GA content after day 2. The first-stage was the 2-day dark culture; the second-stage was the following six-day 0.94 W/m(2) white light irradiation culture, and the third-stage was 4.70 W/m(2) white light irradiation culture until the end of fermentation. During the three-stage culture of G. lucidum, the gradual decrease trend of GA content after day 2 was turned around, which suggested that 0.94 W/m(2) white light irradiation was beneficial for the metabolic flux towards the GA biosynthesis. The maximal GA content of 3.1 +/- 0.1 mg/100 mg DW was obtained, which was higher by 41% compared to the two-stage culture. The maximal GA production (i.e., 466.3 +/- 24.1 mg/L) and productivity (i.e., 38.9 mg/L per day) in the three-stage culture were 69 and 101% higher than those obtained in the two-stage culture. This is the first report investigating the significance of light irradiation on the medicinal mushroom submerged fermentation. Such work is very helpful to other mushroom fermentations for useful metabolite production.