Journal Article

Stimulation of astaxanthin formation in the yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous by the fungus Epicoccum nigrum

Carlos Echavarri-Erasun and Eric A. Johnson

in FEMS Yeast Research

Volume 4, issue 4-5, pages 511-519
Published in print January 2004 |
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1567-1364 | DOI:

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A fungal contaminant on an agar plate containing colonies of Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous markedly increased carotenoid production by yeast colonies near to the fungal growth. Spent-culture filtrate from growth of the fungus in yeast–malt medium also stimulated carotenoid production by X. dendrorhous. Four X. dendrorhous strains including the wild-type UCD 67-385 (ATCC 24230), AF-1 (albino mutant, ATCC 96816), Yan-1 (β-carotene mutant, ATCC 96815) and CAX (astaxanthin overproducer mutant) exposed to fungal concentrate extract enhanced astaxanthin up to approximately 40% per unit dry cell weight in the wild-type strain and in CAX. Interestingly, the fungal extract restored astaxanthin biosynthesis in non-astaxanthin-producing mutants previously isolated in our laboratory, including the albino and the β-carotene mutant. The fungus was identified as Epicoccum nigrum by morphology of sporulating cultures, and the identity confirmed by genetic characterization including rDNA sequencing analysis of the large-subunit (LSU), the internal transcribed spacer, and the D1/D2 region of the LSU. These E. nigrum rDNA sequences were deposited in GenBank under accesssion numbers AF338443, AY093413 and AY093414. Systematic rDNA homology alignments were performed to identify fungi related to E. nigrum. Stimulation of carotenogenesis by E. nigrum and potentially other fungi could provide a novel method to enhance astaxanthin formation in industrial fermentations of X. dendrorhous and Phaffia rhodozyma.

Keywords: Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous; Phaffia rhodozyma; Carotenoid; Astaxanthin; Epicoccum nigrum

Journal Article.  4351 words.  Illustrated.

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