Ascomycota as a source of natural colorants

Braz J Microbiol. 2022 Sep;53(3):1199-1220. doi: 10.1007/s42770-022-00768-4. Epub 2022 May 26.


In the last few decades, there has been a great demand for natural colorants. Synthetic colorants are known to be easy to produce, are less expensive, and remain stable when subjected to chemical and physical factors. In addition, only small amounts are required to color any material, and unwanted flavors and aromas are not incorporated into the product. Natural colorants present in food, in addition to providing color, also have biological properties and effects that aid in the prevention and cure of many diseases. The main classes of colorants produced by phylum Ascomycota include polyketides and carotenoids. A promising producer of colorants should be able to assimilate a variety of sources of carbon and nitrogen and also exhibit relative stability. The strain should not be pathogenic, and its product should not be toxic. Production processes should also provide the expected color with a good yield through simple extraction methods. Research that seeks new sources of these compounds should continue to seek products of biotechnological origin in order to be competitive with products of synthetic and plant origin. In this review, we will focus on the recent studies on the main producing species, classes, and metabolic pathways of colorants produced by this phylum, historical background, impact of synthetic colorants on human health and the environment, social demand for natural colorants and also an in-depth approach to bioprocesses (influences on production, optimization of bioprocess, extraction, and identification), and limitations and perspectives for the use of fungal-based dyes.

Keywords: Color; Culture conditions; Microbial pigments; Pigments; Secondary metabolites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascomycota* / metabolism
  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Coloring Agents
  • Food Coloring Agents* / chemistry
  • Food Coloring Agents* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism


  • Coloring Agents
  • Food Coloring Agents
  • Pigments, Biological