Fungi as a source of eumelanin: current understanding and prospects


Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Melanins represent a diverse collection of pigments with a variety of structures and functions. One class of melanin, eumelanin, is recognizable to most as the source of the dark black color found in cephalopod ink. Sepia officinalis is the most well-known and sought-after source of non-synthetic eumelanin, but its harvest is limited by the availability of cuttlefish, and its extraction from an animal source brings rise to ethical concerns. In recent years, these limitations have become more pressing as more applications for eumelanin are developed—particularly in medicine and electronics. This surge in interest in the applications of eumelanin has also fueled a rise in the interest of alternative, bio-catalyzed production methods. Many culinarily-utilized fungi are ideal candidates in this production scheme, as examples exist which have been shown to produce eumelanin, their growth at large scales is well understood, and they can be cultivated on recaptured waste streams. However, much of the current research on the fungal production of eumelanin focuses on pathogenic fungi and eumelanin’s role in virulence. In this paper, we will review the potential for culinary fungi to produce eumelanin and provide suggestions for new research areas that would be most impactful in the search for improved fungal eumelanin producers.

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Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology

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