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Fungal Extracts Found on an Amazonian Plant Demonstrate Potential as Natural Dye Alternatives
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Fungal Extracts Found on an Amazonian Plant Demonstrate Potential as Natural Dye Alternatives

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
May 14, 2024
2 min

The global demand for natural dyes has increased in popularity as more consumers shift away from synthetic dyes for health and environmental reasons. The natural dye market is expected to reach around $5.4 billion by 2030, pushing the food dye, textile, and cosmetic industries to explore more sustainable options. Pigments of fungal origin may offer a promising solution to this dilemma.

Scientists have recently isolated and identified multiple types of pigment-producing fungi found on an Amazonian plant species, opening up more possibilities for all-natural dye alternatives.

The science behind pigmented fungi

Many plants have a variety of microorganisms living upon them, mutually benefiting their health and survival. Amongst these microbes are endophytic fungi, which are commonly found in the tissues of plants through a symbiotic association that causes no damage to their hosts. Endophytic fungi are known to secrete certain metabolites that can be used for multiple purposes, such as antibiotics, biocontrol agents, insecticides, and more. These fungi can also produce several kinds of biocolors, like melanins, phenazines, flavins, carotenoids, indigo, quinones, and violacein. Since endophytic fungi grow rapidly and release their pigments into their culture medium, they can be used to provide extracts on an industrial scale. Plus, unlike other natural dyes that rely on plants or animals, fungi are more economical since they do not depend on seasonality or specific climates. 

Fridericia chica, also known as the cricket vine or carajuru, is a medicinal plant native to the Amazon rainforest. Because several studies have noted its healing properties and it is commonly used in traditional folk medicine, the Brazillian Ministry of Health added F. chica to the National List of Medicinal Plants of Interest to the Unified Health System (1). Endophytic fungi associated with F. chica are known for their potential to make pigments because the host plant produces certain red pigments used as chemical markers. Since not as much is known about these pigment-producing fungi on F. chica, researchers set out to isolate, select, and identify them to determine new sources of natural dyes.

Fungi’s potential as a natural dye

The study examined 121 isolates of F. chica and found only nine that could produce extracellular pigments of different colors. These fungi were cultivated in a liquid medium, and their species were identified through molecular and phylogenetic analysis. Among the isolated strains, three species stood out as the best producers of colored compounds. The pigment extract produced by H. investiens CF1-37, in particular, demonstrated promising antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, making it a promising contender as a new pigment source for industrial applications (2).

The study emphasizes the need for further research into the potential of these fungal pigments in the food, textile, and cosmetic industries; however, the findings are still a promising move toward more sustainable pigment options. Dyes produced by fungi yield a variety of stable and soluble colors and can even offer health benefits, as discussed in the research. As scientists gain a better understanding of how these fungal pigments work and how they can be used in other applications, there is a major potential to revolutionize the way we view sustainable pigment sources.

References

  1. Mônica Jachetti Maciel, Claudete Rempel, Amanda Luísa Stroher, Patrícia Caye Bergmann, and Diorge Jônatas Marmitt. 2021. “Medicinal Plants of the Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde) with Antifungal Potential.” Revista Brasileira de Ciências Ambientais 56 (2): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.5327/z21769478766.
  2. Melo Pereira, Dorothy Ívila de, Raiana Silveira Gurgel, Anne Terezinha Fernandes de Souza, Rosiane Rodrigues Matias, Lucas de Souza Falcão, Francisco Celio Maia Chaves, Gilvan Ferreira da Silva, et al. 2024. “Isolation and Identification of Pigment-Producing Endophytic Fungi from the Amazonian Species Fridericia Chica.” Journal of Fungi 10 (1): 77. https://doi.org/10.3390/jof10010077.

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science
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
The science behind pigmented fungi
2
Fungi’s potential as a natural dye
3
References

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