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  1. Øyvind M Andersen,
  2. Monica Jordheim

Published Online: 18 OCT 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001909.pub2



How to Cite

Andersen, Ø. M. and Jordheim, M. 2010. Anthocyanins. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Bergen, Department of Chemistry, Bergen, Norway

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 OCT 2010


The anthocyanins, which belong to the flavonoid group provide the majority of red to blue colour shades and patterns of flowers, fruits and leaves of angiosperm plants. They are produced, often temporary, during the course of a shoot's growth, but they can also be promoted experimentally, for instance in green leaves by subjecting plants to mineral imbalances. About 650 anthocyanins have been identified. Each anthocyanin consists of an aglycone (anthocyanidin) and one or more glycosyl moieties. Each anthocyanidin may occur on different equilibrium forms, which are influenced by various factors including pH. The anthocyanins are integrated into the plant's strategies for survival by attracting or repelling pollinators and seed dispersers, serving protective roles as shields against abiotic stresses like UV (ultraviolet)–B radiation, visible light, temperature variation, etc., and active defensive roles against pathogens, insects and herbivores. The past two decades have witnessed increased interests in anthocyanins above all because of their potential health-promoting properties, their use as natural food colorants, as well as their appearance in cultivars and plant mutants with new colours and shapes.

Key Concepts:

  • Anthocyanins provide the majority of red to blue colours of plants.

  • Anthocyanins in plants attract or repel pollinators and seed dispersers, and serve protective and defensive roles.

  • Anthocyanin colours are significantly influenced by structure, copigmentation and external factors like pH.

  • Anthocyanin stability is significantly influenced by structure and external factors like pH.

  • Anthocyanins have been approved for use in foods, in Europe with the label E163.

  • Anthocyanins are regarded as potentially important nutraceuticals.

  • Genetic engineering applied to anthocyanins has been used to modify flower colours and patterns bringing new varieties to the horticultural marked.


  • anthocyanin;
  • flavonoid;
  • structure;
  • colour;
  • stability;
  • copigmentation;
  • genetic;
  • function;
  • nutraceutical;
  • antioxidant