Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 1, pp 117–126 | Cite as

Variations in Monascus pigment characteristics and biosynthetic gene expression using resting cell culture systems combined with extractive fermentation

  • Gong Chen
  • Qi Bei
  • Tao Huang
  • Zhenqiang WuEmail author
Biotechnological products and process engineering


Monascus pigments are promising sources of natural food colorants, and their productivity can be improved by a novel extractive fermentation technology. In this study, we investigated the variations in pigment characteristics and biosynthetic gene expression levels in resting cell culture systems combined with extractive fermentation in Monascus anka GIM 3.592. Although the biomass was low at about 6 g/L DCW, high pigment titer of approximately 130 AU470 was obtained in the resting culture with cells from extractive fermentation, illustrating that it had a good biocatalytic activity for pigment synthesis. The oxidation–reduction potential value correlated with the rate of relative content of the intracellular orange pigments to the yellow pigments (O/Y, r > 0.90, p < 0.05), indicating that the change in pigment characteristics may be responsible for the cellular redox activity. The up- or down-regulation of the pigment biosynthetic genes (MpFasA2, MpFasB2, MpPKS5, mppD, mppB, mppR1, and mppR2) in the resting culture with extractive culture cells was demonstrated by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis. Moreover, the mppE gene associated with the yellow pigment biosynthesis was significantly (p < 0.05) down-regulated by about 18.6%, whereas the mppC gene corresponding to orange pigment biosynthesis was significantly (p < 0.05) up-regulated by approximately 21.0%. These findings indicated that extractive fermentation was beneficial for the biosynthesis of the intracellular orange pigment. The mechanism described in this study proposes a potential method for the highly efficient production of Monascus pigments.


Monascus pigment Biosynthetic activity Gene expression Nonionic surfactant Resting cell culture 


Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31271925) and the Special Project on the Integration of Industry, Education and Research of Guangdong Province, China (No. 2013B090600015), as well as the Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, China (No. 2014 J4100192).

Supplementary material

253_2017_8576_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (220 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 219 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biology and Biological Engineering, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Fermentation and Enzyme EngineeringSouth China University of TechnologyGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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