Fungal melanins and applications in healthcare, bioremediation and industry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Melanin is a complex multifunctional pigment found in all kingdoms of life, including fungi. The complex chemical structure of fungal melanins, yet to be fully elucidated, lends them multiple unique functions ranging from radioprotection and antioxidant activity to heavy metal chelation and organic compound absorption. Given their many biological functions, fungal melanins present many possibilities as natural compounds that could be exploited for human use. This review summarizes the current discourse and attempts to apply fungal melanin to enhance human health, remove pollutants from ecosystems, and streamline industrial processes. While the potential applications of fungal melanins are often discussed in the scientific community, they are successfully executed less often. Some of the challenges in the applications of fungal melanin to technology include the knowledge gap about their detailed structure, difficulties in isolating melanotic fungi, challenges in extracting melanin from isolated species, and the pathogenicity concerns that accompany working with live melanotic fungi. With proper acknowledgment of these challenges, fungal melanin holds great potential for societal benefit in the coming years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number488
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Biotechnology
  • Fungal pigments
  • Fungi
  • Industrial microbiology
  • Melanin
  • Radioprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Microbiology (medical)


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