Synthesis and assembly of fungal melanin

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Feb;93(3):931-40. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3777-2. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Melanin is a unique pigment with myriad functions that is found in all biological kingdoms. It is multifunctional, providing defense against environmental stresses such as ultraviolet (UV) light, oxidizing agents and ionizing radiation. Melanin contributes to the ability of fungi to survive in harsh environments. In addition, it plays a role in fungal pathogenesis. Melanin is an amorphous polymer that is produced by one of two synthetic pathways. Fungi may synthesize melanin from endogenous substrate via a 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) intermediate. Alternatively, some fungi produce melanin from L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa). The detailed chemical structure of melanin is not known. However, microscopic studies show that it has an overall granular structure. In fungi, melanin granules are localized to the cell wall where they are likely cross-linked to polysaccharides. Recent studies suggest the fungal melanin may be synthesized in internal vesicles akin to mammalian melanosomes and transported to the cell wall. Potential applications of melanin take advantage of melanin's radioprotective properties and propensity to bind to a variety of substances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / chemistry
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / metabolism
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / ultrastructure
  • Fungi / chemistry
  • Fungi / metabolism*
  • Fungi / ultrastructure
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanins / chemistry*
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Melanosomes / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission


  • Melanins