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Biotechnological production of high added value apocarotenoids

DNAMoleculesNutraceuticalssaffron stigmas


The invention describes DNA sequences and methods that allow the biotechnological production of molecules responsible for the red coloration of saffron stigmas. These molecules have beneficial properties for humans and can be used as nutraceuticals. Their biotechnological production allows to reduce costs compared to the production of apocarotenoids from saffron stigmas

Technical features

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, derives from hand-picked and dried stigmas of Crocus sativus. Its red colour is due to crocin, pigments that make up-to 10% of the weight of the spice. Crocin is of considerable interest as a food supplement due to its antioxidant, antitumor and neuroprotective properties and for its very low toxicity. Crocin’s scarce large scale production worldwide is due to raw material high costs and the inability to synthesize crocin chemically. This invention describes DNA sequences of Crocus sativus which allow the accumulation of crocins in the stigmas. These sequences can be used for the biotechnological production of crocins in plants and / or microorganisms suitable for human consumption, and therefore suitable for constituting a renewable and practically unlimited source for the formulation of OTC crocin-based supplements.

Possible Applications

  • Nutraceuticals for the prevention of chronic diseases such as macular degeneration;
  • Natural pigments for the food and chemical industry.


  • Production of crocin would not rely on the availability of C sativus;
  • Increase in production;
  • Use high yield crops (tomatoes) for production;
  • Use microorganisms for large scale production;
  • Decrease in production costs;
  • Resulting crocin is more suitable for incorporating in supplement formulations.