Grewal, P.S., Modavi, C., Russ, Z.N., Harris, N.C., and Dueber J.E.
Betalains are a family of natural pigments found exclusively in the plant order Caryophyllales. All members of this chemical family are biosynthesized through the common intermediate betalamic acid, which is capable of spontaneously condensing with various primary and secondary amines to produce betalains. Of particular interest is the red-violet betanin, most commonly obtained from Beta vulgaris (beet) as a natural food dye. We demonstrate the first complete microbial production of betanin in Saccharomyces cerevisiae from glucose, an early step towards a fermentation process enabling rapid, on-demand production of this natural dye. A titer of 17mg/L was achieved, corresponding to a color intensity obtained from 10g/L of beetroot extract. Further, we expanded the spectrum of betalain colors by condensing betalamic acid with various amines fed to an engineered strain of S. cerevisiae. Our work establishes a platform for microbial production of betalains of various colors as a potential alternative to land- and resource-intensive agricultural production.