Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.104, No.12, 5461-5475, 2020
Evaluation of ergosterol composition and esterification rate in fungi isolated from mangrove soil, long-term storage of broken spores, and two soils
Ergosterol is an important fungal-specific biomarker, but its use for fungal biomass estimation is still varied. It is important to distinguish between free and esterified ergosterols, which are mainly located on the plasma membrane and the cytosolic lipid particles, respectively. The present study analyzes free and esterified ergosterol contents in: (1) the fifty-nine strains of culturable fungi isolated from mangrove soil, (2) the broken spores of the fungus Ganoderma lucidum stored in capsule for more than 12 years, and (3) the mangrove soil and nearby campus wood soil samples by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The results show that the contents of free and esterified ergosterols varied greatly in fifty-nine strains of fungi after 5 days of growth, indicating the diversity of ergosterol composition in fungi. The average contents of free and total ergosterols from the fifty-nine strains of fungi are 4.4 +/- 1.5 mg/g and 6.1 +/- 1.9 mg/g dry mycelia, respectively, with an average ergosterol esterification rate of 27.4%. The present study suggests that the fungi might be divided into two classes, one is fungi with high esterification rates (e.g., more than 27%) such as Nectria spp. and Fusarium spp., and the other is fungi with low esterification rates (e.g., less than 27%) such as Penicillium spp. and Trichoderma spp. Moreover, the ergosterol esterification rate in the spores of G. lucidum is 91.4% with a very small amount of free ergosterol (0.015 mg/g), compared with 41.9% with a higher level of free ergosterol (0.499 mg/g) reported in our previous study in 2007, indicating that free ergosterol degrades more rapidly than esterified ergosterol. In addition, the ergosterol esterification rates in mangrove soil and nearby campus wood soil samples range from 0 to 39.0%, compared with 80% in an old soil organic matter reported in a previous study, indicating the potential relationship between aging degree of fungi or soil and esterification rate. The present study proposes that both free and esterified ergosterols should be analyzed for fungal biomass estimation. When the ergosterol esterification rates in soils are higher, free ergosterol might be a better marker for fungal biomass. It is speculated that the ergosterol esterification rate in soils might contain some important information, such as the age of old-growth forests over time scales of centuries to millennia, besides the senescence degree of fungal mycelia in soils.