Commercialization of agricultural products, including seeds and its derived products, represents an important economic source for developing countries. Natural colorants obtained from the seeds of achiote plant annatto have been used since pre-Hispanic times. Also, production of this crop has been important for Mayan cuisine. Annual world production of achiote seeds is approximately 14, tons dry weight.

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Commercialization of agricultural products, including seeds and its derived products, represents an important economic source for developing countries. Natural colorants obtained from the seeds of achiote plant annatto have been used since pre-Hispanic times. Also, production of this crop has been important for Mayan cuisine. Annual world production of achiote seeds is approximately 14, tons dry weight. Two thirds of the production is commercialized as dried seeds and the rest as colorant.

The purpose of the present paper is to review the most recent literature on Bixa orellana L. Achiote Bixa orellana L. It is widely cultivated in all tropical regions around the world; specifically in Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and in the Peruvian Andes. In Mexico, 40 accessions of achiote have been collected and morphologically characterized; in addition, for 20 of these accessions its biochemical characterization, only in terms of bixin content, has been determined.

An accession is a sample of a distinct germplasm, where germplasm is defined as the set of genes expressed in the distinctive phenotype; therefore, collection of different accessions and its preservation in germplasm banks is very important for conservation of genetic diversity and its potential commercial usage Fig.

Achiote is a perennial tree that can reach nine meters of height with white or pink flowers and fruits with the form of globular ovoid capsules Fig. Annatto is the name given to the crude pigment extract containing bixin, norbixin and other carotenoids in different proportions obtained from achiote. While bixin is fat soluble, norbixin is hydrosoluble.

The possibility for obtaining water-soluble colorants as well as oil-soluble colorants depending on the type of extraction as well as the solvent and temperature used has converted achiote in one of the most interesting plant sources of vegetable colorants Smith Currently, the use of artificial colorants such as tartrazine E , allura red E or sunset yellow FCF E in food products have been severely questioned in developed countries, since there are reports showing that indiscriminate consumption of these colorants is associated to the development of degenerative illnesses such as some types of cancer Salinas et al.

As a consequence, the use of some artificial food colors such as carmoisine E and Ponceau 4R E have been banned in the USA and Europe and the use of natural colorants such as the dye extracted from the surface of B. E b, annatto extract have been recommended McCann Nowadays, annatto extract has a great economic importance worldwide and it is one of the natural colors more widely used in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, because it does not alter flavor and it is practically not toxic Michelangeli et al.

This natural dye is rich on the carotenoids bixin dark red color and norbixin or orelline yellow color which are mainly used to develop attractive colors in dairy products cheeses, margarine, and butter , meats, ice creams, cosmetics, condiments, ceramic, paint, hair colors, soaps, nail polish, varnish, lacquer, fabric colors, among others Devia and Saldarriaga Other apocarotenoids present in lower amounts are norbixin, bixin dimethyl ester and byproducts of lycopene degradation Cardarelli et al.

Bixin is the only carotenoid that presents a 9- cis configuration structure present in an oxygenated carotenoid, lutein, which belongs to the xanthophyll group and 2 carboxyl groups Fig.

The structural formulae of bixin and norbixina modified from Smith In order to understand bixin and norbixin biosynthetic pathway, it is important to know the main steps for carotenoids biosynthesis. Carotenoids belong to the terpene family, compounds formed by isoprene units, and their biosynthesis is through the isoprenoid pathway Schmidt et al.

Pathway of biosynthesis of isoprenoid compounds. The first step for carotenoids biosynthesis is the condensation of two molecules of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate GGPP to produce cis -phytoene C 40 , the basic structure of all carotenoids.

Subsequently, cis -phytoene suffers four desaturation reactions for the synthesis of lycopene Delgado-Vargas et al. Lycopene is the simplest carotenoid molecule linear molecule formed of 40 carbon atoms and is the substrate for generating most cyclic carotenoids through cycling, hydroxylation or oxidation or the combination of these three types of reaction.

These reactions take place on one of end of the lycopene chain; in this way the biosynthetic pathway branches to form the distinct carotenoids Castro and Murcia , Fig. Lycopene biosynthesis modified from Delgado-Vargas et al. Formation of carotenoids from lycopene modified from Delgado-Vargas et al.

Proposed bixin biosynthesis pathway. All compounds are shown in their all- trans configuration modified from Giuliano et al. On another hand, it has been documented that achiote B. The structure of these two types of compounds is very similar; but, while tocopherols have a saturated phytol tail, tocotrienols possess an isoprenoid tail with three unsaturated residues Das et al. Tocopherols and tocotrienols biosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts from the aromatic ring of the homogentisic acid.

Tocopherols synthesis starts with condensation of homogentisic acid and phytyl diphosphate to form 2-methylphytyl-1,4-benzoquinol MPBQ. Chemical structure of tocopherols modified from Aggarwal et al. Chemical structure of tocotrienols modified from Aggarwal et al. Tocopherols biosynthesis modified from Eitenmiller and Lee Tocotrienols synthesis starts with condensation of homogentisic acid and geranylgeranyl diphosphate to generate 2-methylgeranylgeranyl-1,4-benzoquinol MGGBQ catalyzed by geranylgeranyl transferase.

Tocotrienols biosynthesis modified from Eitenmiller and Lee Nowadays, bixin occupies the second place among the main natural colors used worldwide Lauro and Francis ; Giridhar and Parimalan ; Chuyen et al. There are several forms of the extract from achiote more than any other natural color available for its application on the food and pharmaceutical industries Hendry and Houghton and depends on the nature of the extract which food products are colored Smith In most of achiote producing countries, the ground seed is commercialized as condiment or colorant for food; whereas in developed countries it is mainly used in the form of extracts used as a natural color in the food industry.

International commercialization of these extracts is regulated by the quality standards of each country where is commercialized.

Annatto extracts may contain different proportions of bixin and norbixin, depending on the extraction process and the temperature used. The different proportions of these compounds determine the tone and hue of the food product that is colored Smith Annatto extracts are widely used in the food industry, mainly in dairy and other food products such as poultry, fish, surimi imitation of crab meat , bakery, breakfast cereals, several desserts, jam and jellies, maraschino cherries, cream and icing for cakes, sauces, condiments, candies and beverages such as aperitifs, soft-drinks and juices.

Soybean, grapeseed and sunflower oils can be used to extract or dissolve bixin. The oil soluble extract contains mainly cis -bixin. This extract shows different range of color tonalities from yellow to orange-reddish. If bixin is extracted with hot vegetable oil, there is a change in the color that goes from orange—reddish to orange—yellow Smith and also, cis -bixin is transformed in trans -bixin which is its most stable and soluble form Hendry and Houghton Annatto extracts in oil generally contains between 0.

Even though the coloring power of these solutions is low, they are used to color dairy products cream-cheese and American cheese , salad dressings and some aperitifs Hendry and Houghton Water soluble annatto extract consists of the dissociated form of norbixin in an alkaline solution, usually potassium or sodium hydroxide and then acidified with hydrochloric acid for precipitating norbixin.

The precipitate is filtered, dried and ground for obtaining a granular powder which is commercialized as norbixin powder or in diluted liquid solutions Smith Norbixin, particularly in its cis form, is very soluble in water and hence, these solutions may contain from 0.

The use of water soluble annatto extract has considerably increased, not only in the dairy industry, but also in aperitifs and beverages processing Hendry and Houghton Dairy products represent one of the most important categories of processed food with annatto extracts. Some examples are ice cream, margarine, mayonnaise, creamy sauces, some candies, and wide range of bakery products. Emulsified annatto pigment is commercialized as a liquid and contains between 1 and 2.

The daily human intake of annatto extract is an important consideration from the regulatory standpoint. The estimates varies from 0. These calculations have become more important since it was reported that bixin is rapidly absorbed to the blood stream after its ingestion. Annatto is considered as a non-toxic colorant. In the United States annatto is a natural colorant exempted from certification. Furthermore, several authors have performed studies on genotoxicity and chronic oral toxicity in rats and dogs fed for a year with annatto extracted with water and solvents.

Researchers concluded that high levels of bixin and norbixin in the diet of the experimental animals did not cause any toxic or carcinogenic effect and that 0. Occasionally, allergic reactions to food products containing annatto have been reported, but they have been attributed to protein traces of the achiote seed found as impurities in the colorant Lauro and Francis As mentioned earlier, B. Moreover, B. Other isoprenoids that have been reported are farnesylacetone, geranylgeranyl octadecanoate and geranylgeranyl formate.

Phytochemical studies of achiote leaf have revealed the presence of bixaghanene, bixein, bixol, crocetin, ellagic acid, isobixin, phenylalanine, salicylic acid, threonine, tomentosic acid, tryptophan, flavonoid bisulfates, sterols, tannins, saponins, and an esencial oil mainly comprised by sesquiterpenes being ishwarane the major compound.

Presence of the triterpene tomentosic acid has also been reported in the roots Venugopalan et al. Tocopherols and tocotrienols have a similar chemical structure, a chromanol ring with a hydroxyl group that can donate a hydrogen atom for reducing free radicals. The difference between tocopherols and tocotrienols is the presence of three double bonds in the lateral hydrophobic chain of tocotrienols Srivastava and Gupta While tocopherols are present in seeds and leaves of most plants, tocotrienols are only present in a small fraction of them Patacsil et al.

It has been suggested that these compounds act as antioxidants by protecting the lipid membrane from oxidative damage lipid peroxidation Aggarwal et al. While tocopherols have been widely studied for their antioxidant properties, there are few studies of tocotrienols on this sense. Recent studies have shown that tocotrienols possess a strong anti-carcinogenic and neuroprotective effect as well also involved in reducing cholesterol levels as compared to tocopherols Sen et al.

It has been proposed that these beneficial effects might be due to the unsaturation of their aliphatic tail which makes easier their penetration to tissues and confers them a higher antioxidant power Samarjit et al. South American indigenous people have traditionally used annatto extracts from leaves, roots and seeds for medicinal purposes like treating diarrhea and asthma Lauro and Francis The aril covering the seed is widely used to treat burns and bleeding, dysentery, gonorrhea, constipation and fever.

There are also reports on the use of B. In Brazil, annatto extracts are used for treating heartburn, as diuretic and laxative. Decoction of the leaves is used for stopping vomit, nausea and heartburn, for treating urinary and prostate disorders, hypertension, high cholesterol, cystitis, obesity, renal insufficiency, for eliminating uric acid, as well as for several stomach problems.

Piura tribe of the Amazon Rainforest prepare a tea with young roots as aphrodisiac, astringent, and to treat skin problems, fever, dysentery and hepatitis. In Colombia, annatto is used as antivenin for snakebites and the seeds are used as expectorant and for treating gonorrhea Venugopalan et al. During the last years, efforts have been made to recover achiote cultivation in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the production of this crop has been important for Mayan cuisine through time.

However, nowadays there are few commercial plantations; most achiote is cultivated in backyards. In addition, there is not a germplasm bank to guarantee homogeneity of the seeds that are used. Work has been done to recover germplasm cultivated by producers in the States of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo. From this collection work, 40 accessions were obtained; these accessions have been protected and propagated to characterize them in terms of their bixin and norbixin content.

In this sense, our group in the laboratory of Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology has focused on the biochemical characterization of these accession specifically on the quantification of the yield of the pigment extraction, color parameters, levels of tocotrienols, tocopherols, luteolin and apigenin, antioxidant capacity in the annatto extracts and its effect on in vivo models.

Also, according to the strategic plan — of the Achiote Network, our group expects to carry out studies for optimizing the process for obtaining the colorant and using the waste products for elaboration of several food products derived from achiote. Furthermore, it has been also proposed research on the use of the aerial parts of the achiote plant and their possible pharmacological properties and health benefits; adding economical value to achiote crop production.

Although achiote B. Annatto extract is a natural colorant widely accepted and used in the food industry.


Extracción de bixina de semillas de annatto utilizando tecnologías combinadas

Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: Main conclusionGenetic transformation allows for greater bixin or norbixin production in achiote. Knowledge of genes that control the biosynthesis of these important secondary metabolites will allow for targeted amplification in transgenic plants.


The biotechnology (genetic transformation and molecular biology) of Bixa orellana L. (achiote)

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Translation of "La bixina" in English




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