Xanthophylls (originally phylloxanthins) are yellow pigments of oxycarotenoid type, from the carotenoid group. They are found in the leaves of most plants and are synthesized within the plastids. They are involved in photosynthesis along with green chlorophyll, which typically covers up the yellow except in autumn, when the chlorophyll decomposes.

In plants, xanthophylls are considered accessory pigments, along with anthocyanins, carotenes, and sometimes phycobilins.

Animals cannot produce xanthophylls, and thus xanthophylls found in animals (e.g. in the eye) come from their food intake. The yellow color of chicken egg yolks also comes from ingested xanthophylls.

Xanthophylls are oxidized derivatives of carotenes. They contain hydroxyl groups and are more polar.

The group of xanthophylls is composed of lutein, zeaxanthin, and α- and β-cryptoxanthin.


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