, Volume 248, Issue 2, pp 267–277 | Cite as

The biotechnology (genetic transformation and molecular biology) of Bixa orellana L. (achiote)

  • Jaime A. Teixeira da SilvaEmail author
  • Judit DobránszkiEmail author
  • Renata Rivera-MadridEmail author


Main conclusion

Genetic transformation allows for greater bixin or norbixin production in achiote. Knowledge of genes that control the biosynthesis of these important secondary metabolites will allow for targeted amplification in transgenic plants.

Annatto is a natural dye or coloring agent derived from the seeds, or their arils, of achiote (Bixa orellana L.), and is commercially known as E160b. The main active component of annatto dye is water-insoluble bixin, although water-soluble norbixin also has commercial applications. Relative to other antioxidants, bixin is light- and temperature stable and is thus safe for human consumption. Bixin is, therefore, widely applied as a dye and as an antioxidant in the medico-pharmaceutical, food, cosmetic, and dye industries. Even though bixin has also been isolated from leaves and bark, yield is lower than from seeds. More biotechnology-based research of this industrial and medicinal plant is needed. Building on provisional genetic transformation studies, it would be advantageous to transform genes that could result in greater bixin or norbixin production. Reliable protocols for the extraction of bixin and norbixin, as well as deeper knowledge of the genes that control the biosynthesis of these important secondary metabolites will allow for targeted amplification in transgenic plants.


Bixaceae Bixin Dye Extraction and purification Medicinal plant Norbixin 



We thank Margarita Aguilar-Espinosa, who provided some of the pictures. RRM thanks the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) with grant no. 46541, 98508, 220259. to support some previously published findings that were described in this review.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IkenobeJapan
  2. 2.Research Institute of Nyíregyháza, IAREF, University of DebrecenNyíregyházaHungary
  3. 3.Unidad de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular de PlantasCentro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán A.C.MéridaMexico

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