This Indigo Research Could Make Blue Jeans Green

According to, Berkeley bioengineering professor John Dueber has studied the chemical steps plants use to naturally make indigo, and he thinks he has found an environmentally green way for the industry to churn out the dye without the use of toxic compounds.

“When plant leaves are healthy, a chemical precursor to indigo, called indican, is caged within a sugar molecule and isolated from the rest of the cell in an organelle. Only when leaves are damaged is indican released from this compartment. The sugar protective cage is removed, allowing a chemical change that makes indigo. Green leaves turn blue.

Dueber’s lab very recently identified the plant enzyme that is essential for adding the protective sugar cage. They plan to insert its gene into bacteria. Addition of a second gene as well as tweaks to a few of the bacteria’s genes should enable the bacteria to produce indican.”

Botanical Colors founder Kathy Hattori says this research, if it can really work, is a true “game-changer” for the industry.

Read more here.

Image: Peg Skorpinski for