Beta-carotene is an organic, strongly-colored red-orange pigment, abundant in plants and fruits such as carrots or pumpkins. It is a member of the carotenoids, amongst which, it is distinguished by the presence of beta-rings at both ends of the molecule (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Chemical structure of the Beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is the most abundant vitamin A carotenoid precursor in the human diet, and it is needed for normal growth development, immune system, and vision.
It is widely used as food coloring and also in other industries, such as pharmaceutical or cosmetics, for its antioxidant properties.
Because of these uses, beta-carotene has attracted the attention of synthetic biologists, which have managed to synthesize it using cell factories, in order to improve and optimize its production at larger scales.