Comparative Transcriptomic Analysis of Key Genes Involved in Citrinin Biosynthesis in Monascus purpureus

Yingying Huang, Chenglong Yang (Corresponding Author), Istvan Molnar, Shen Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Monascus pigments (MPs) display many beneficial biological activities and have been widely utilized as natural food-grade colorants in the food processing industry. The presence of the mycotoxin citrinin (CIT) seriously restricts the application of MPs, but the gene regulation mechanisms governing CIT biosynthesis remain unclear. We performed a RNA-Seq-based comparative transcriptomic analysis of representative high MPs-producing Monascus purpureus strains with extremely high vs. low CIT yields. In addition, we performed qRT-PCR to detect the expression of genes related to CIT biosynthesis, confirming the reliability of the RNA-Seq data. The results revealed that there were 2518 differentially expressed genes (DEGs; 1141 downregulated and 1377 upregulated in the low CIT producer strain). Many upregulated DEGs were associated with energy metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism, with these changes potentially making more biosynthetic precursors available for MPs biosynthesis. Several potentially interesting genes that encode transcription factors were also identified amongst the DEGs. The transcriptomic results also showed that citB, citD, citE, citC and perhaps MpigI were key candidate genes to limit CIT biosynthesis. Our studies provide useful information on metabolic adaptations to MPs and CIT biosynthesis in M. purpureus, and provide targets for the fermentation industry towards the engineering of safer MPs production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number200
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Monascus purpureus
  • secondary metabolites
  • pigment
  • citrinin
  • RNA-seq analysis


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