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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 465056, 8 pages
Review Article

Violacein: Properties and Production of a Versatile Bacterial Pigment

1School of Life Sciences, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, 50 UNIST-gil, Eonyang-eup, Ulsan 689-798, Republic of Korea
2Division of Biological Science and Technology, College of Science and Technology, Yonsei University, 1 Yonseidae-gil, Wonju, Gangwon-do 220-710, Republic of Korea

Received 19 September 2014; Accepted 18 December 2014

Academic Editor: Flavia Marinelli

Copyright © 2015 Seong Yeol Choi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Violacein-producing bacteria, with their striking purple hues, have undoubtedly piqued the curiosity of scientists since their first discovery. The bisindole violacein is formed by the condensation of two tryptophan molecules through the action of five proteins. The genes required for its production, vioABCDE, and the regulatory mechanisms employed have been studied within a small number of violacein-producing strains. As a compound, violacein is known to have diverse biological activities, including being an anticancer agent and being an antibiotic against Staphylococcus aureus and other Gram-positive pathogens. Identifying the biological roles of this pigmented molecule is of particular interest, and understanding violacein’s function and mechanism of action has relevance to those unmasking any of its commercial or therapeutic benefits. Unfortunately, the production of violacein and its related derivatives is not easy and so various groups are also seeking to improve the fermentative yields of violacein through genetic engineering and synthetic biology. This review discusses the recent trends in the research and production of violacein by both natural and genetically modified bacterial strains.