Biochemistry and molecular biology of carotenoid biosynthesis in chili peppers (Capsicum spp.)

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Sep 16;14(9):19025-53. doi: 10.3390/ijms140919025.


Capsicum species produce fruits that synthesize and accumulate carotenoid pigments, which are responsible for the fruits' yellow, orange and red colors. Chili peppers have been used as an experimental model for studying the biochemical and molecular aspects of carotenoid biosynthesis. Most reports refer to the characterization of carotenoids and content determination in chili pepper fruits from different species, cultivars, varieties or genotypes. The types and levels of carotenoids differ between different chili pepper fruits, and they are also influenced by environmental conditions. Yellow-orange colors of chili pepper fruits are mainly due to the accumulation of α- and β-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and β-cryptoxanthin. Carotenoids such as capsanthin, capsorubin and capsanthin-5,6-epoxide confer the red colors. Chromoplasts are the sites of carotenoid pigment synthesis and storage. According to the most accepted theory, the synthesis of carotenoids in chili peppers is controlled by three loci: c1, c2 and y. Several enzymes participating in carotenoid biosynthesis in chili pepper fruits have been isolated and characterized, and the corresponding gene sequences have been reported. However, there is currently limited information on the molecular mechanisms that regulate this biosynthetic pathway. Approaches to gain more knowledge of the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / biosynthesis
  • Capsicum / metabolism*
  • Carotenoids / biosynthesis*
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Fruit / metabolism
  • Genetic Loci
  • Plastids / enzymology
  • Plastids / metabolism


  • Anthocyanins
  • Enzymes
  • Carotenoids