Monascus has been used to produce natural colorants and food supplements for more than one thousand years, and approximately more than one billion people eat Monascus-fermented products during their daily life. In this study, using next-generation sequencing and optical mapping approaches, a 24.1-Mb complete genome of an industrial strain, Monascus purpureus YY-1, was obtained. This genome consists of eight chromosomes and 7,491 genes. Phylogenetic analysis at the genome level provides convincing evidence for the evolutionary position of M. purpureus. We provide the first comprehensive prediction of the biosynthetic pathway for Monascus pigment. Comparative genomic analyses show that the genome of M. purpureus is 13.6-40% smaller than those of closely related filamentous fungi and has undergone significant gene losses, most of which likely occurred during its specialized adaptation to starch-based foods. Comparative transcriptome analysis reveals that carbon starvation stress, resulting from the use of relatively low-quality carbon sources, contributes to the high yield of pigments by repressing central carbon metabolism and augmenting the acetyl-CoA pool. Our work provides important insights into the evolution of this economically important fungus and lays a foundation for future genetic manipulation and engineering of this strain.
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