Fungal pigments, which are classified as secondary metabolites, are polymerized products derived mostly from phenolic precursors with remarkable structural diversity. Pigments of conidia and sclerotia serve myriad functions. They provide tolerance against various environmental stresses such as ultraviolet light, oxidizing agents, and ionizing radiation. Some pigments even play a role in fungal pathogenesis. This review gathers available research and discusses current knowledge on the formation of conidial and sclerotial pigments in aspergilli. It examines organization of genes involved in pigment production, biosynthetic pathways, and biological functions and reevaluates some of the current dogma, especially with respect to the DHN-melanin pathway, on the production of these enigmatic polymers. A better understanding of the structure and biosynthesis of melanins and other pigments could facilitate strategies to mitigate fungal pathogenesis.
Keywords: Aspergillus; Conidia; Melanin; Pigment biosynthesis; Sclerotia.