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Home • Monascus purpureus v1.0
Colony surface (top) and undersurface (bottom) of Monascus purpureus NRRL 1596 exuding reddish pigment into the agar medium.
Colony surface (top) and undersurface (bottom) of Monascus purpureus NRRL 1596 exuding reddish pigment into the agar medium.
Image Credit: Kerry O'Donnell.

Monascus purpureus
Within the framework of the JGI 1000 Fungal Genomes CSP, Monascus purpureus NRRL 1596 and M. ruber NRRL 1597 were selected to represent members of the ascomycete family Monascaceae (Pezizomycotina, Eurotiomycetes).  These species produce reddish to purple pigments that diffuse into agar media. Following its initial discovery on discolored rice in eastern Asia, M. purpureus was developed as a food colorant in fermented Asian foods such as red rice (also known as beni-koji  and ang-kak) and rice wine (Pitt and Hocking, 2009).  However, its use as a food colorant within the US and Europe was discontinued subsequent to the discovery that isolates of Monascus produce citrinin, a hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic mycotoxin (Chen et al., 2008).  Monascus is still used to color Asian fermented foods with red yeast rice; however, citrinin levels in these products are monitored rigorously.  Although M. purpureus produces lovastatin and mevastatin, strains of Aspergillus terreus are typically used in the industrial production of cholesterol-lowering statins (Patakova, 2012).
The availability of these two reference genomes and their transcriptomes fill in the missing gap in the Fungal Tree of Life for the family Monascaceae.  Moreover, this reference genomic data will provide researchers with a window into the biosynthetic potential of these industrially important fungi.

 

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