Bioavailability and provitamin A activity of neurosporaxanthin in mice

Anthony P. Miller, Dámaso Hornero-Méndez, Sepalika Bandara, Obdulia Parra-Rivero, M. Carmen Limón, Johannes von Lintig, Javier Avalos, Jaume Amengual

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Various species of ascomycete fungi synthesize the carboxylic carotenoid neurosporaxanthin. The unique chemical structure of this xanthophyll reveals that: (1) Its carboxylic end and shorter length increase the polarity of neurosporaxanthin in comparison to other carotenoids, and (2) it contains an unsubstituted β-ionone ring, conferring the potential to form vitamin A. Previously, neurosporaxanthin production was optimized in Fusarium fujikuroi, which allowed us to characterize its antioxidant properties in in vitro assays. In this study, we assessed the bioavailability of neurosporaxanthin compared to other provitamin A carotenoids in mice and examined whether it can be cleaved by the two carotenoid-cleaving enzymes: β-carotene-oxygenase 1 (BCO1) and 2 (BCO2). Using Bco1 −/− Bco2 −/− mice, we report that neurosporaxanthin displays greater bioavailability than β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin, as evidenced by higher accumulation and decreased fecal elimination. Enzymatic assays with purified BCO1 and BCO2, together with feeding studies in wild-type, Bco1 −/−, Bco2 −/−, and Bco1 −/− Bco2 −/− mice, revealed that neurosporaxanthin is a substrate for either carotenoid-cleaving enzyme. Wild-type mice fed neurosporaxanthin displayed comparable amounts of vitamin A to those fed β-carotene. Together, our study unveils neurosporaxanthin as a highly bioavailable fungal carotenoid with provitamin A activity, highlighting its potential as a novel food additive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1068
JournalCommunications biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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