Skip to main content
Log in

Unique processes yielding pure azaphilones in Talaromyces atroroseus

  • Biotechnological products and process engineering
  • Published:
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Azaphilones are a class of fungal pigments, reported mostly in association with Monascus species. In Asian countries, they are used as food colourants under the name of “red yeast rice” and their production process is well described. One major limitation of current production techniques of azaphilones is that they always occur in a mixture of yellow, orange and red pigments. These mixtures are difficult to control and to quantify. This study has established a controlled and reproducible cultivation protocol to selectively tailor production of individual pigments during a submerged fermentation using another fungal species capable of producing azaphilone pigments, Talaromyces atroroseus, using single amino acids as the sole nitrogen source. The produced azaphilone pigments are called atrorosins and are amino acid derivatives of the known azaphilone pigment Penicillium purpurogenum–orange (PP-O), with the amino acid used as nitrogen source incorporated into the core skeleton of the azaphilone. This strategy was successfully demonstrated using 18 proteinogenic amino acids and the non-proteinogenic amino acid ornithine. Two cultivation methods for production of the pure serine derivative (atrorosin S) have been further developed, with yields of 0.9 g/L being obtained. Yielding pure atrorosins through switching from KNO3 to single amino acids as nitrogen source allows for considerably easier downstream processing and thus further enhances the commercial relevance of azaphilone producing fungal cell factories.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others


Download references


We received grant support from the Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF16O23644). Funding was from the Technical University of Denmark Department of Bioengeering (DTU Bioengineering).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



GT, AO and MW initiated and coordinated the entire project. All authors revised the manuscript. GT, AO, TI, TOL and MW conceived and designed the experiments. GT, AO and TI performed the experiments. GT, AO, TI, TOL and MW analysed the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Ostenfeld Larsen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Availability of data and materials

All data and materials are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

Consent for publications

All co-authors have agreed to the content and form of the manuscript for publication.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

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

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(PDF 1628 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tolborg, G., Ødum, A.S.R., Isbrandt, T. et al. Unique processes yielding pure azaphilones in Talaromyces atroroseus. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 104, 603–613 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: