The Lignicolous Fungus Coniochaeta pulveracea and Its Interactions with Syntrophic Yeasts from the Woody Phylloplane
The yeast-like fungus Coniochaeta pulveracea was studied with regard to its novel lignocellulolytic activities and the possible effect thereof on yeasts from the woody phylloplane. An enrichment procedure was used to isolate C. pulveracea from a decaying Acacia tree, and the identity of the isolate was confirmed using morphology, as well as molecular and phylogenetic techniques. This isolate, as well as strains representing C. pulveracea from different geographical regions, were compared with regard to optimum growth temperature and enzyme activity to representatives of closely related species. These include strains of Coniochaeta boothii, Coniochaeta rhopalochaeta, and Coniochaeta subcorticalis. Plate assays for cellulase and xylanase activity indicated that all representatives of the above-mentioned species were able to produce extracellular hydrolytic enzymes and were also able to degrade birchwood toothpicks during a 50-day incubation period at 30°C. To test the ability of these fungi and their enzymes to release simple sugars from complex cellulosic substrates, filtrates obtained from liquid cultures of Coniochaeta, cultivated on carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) as sole carbon source, were analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography analysis. Consequently, the presence of mono- and disaccharides such as glucose and cellobiose was confirmed in these culture filtrates. Two subsequent experiments were conducted to determine whether these simple sugars released from woody material by Coniochaeta may enhance growth of phylloplane yeasts. In the first experiment, representatives of Coniochaeta were co-cultured with selected yeasts suspended in agar plates containing birchwood toothpicks, followed by examination of plates for colony formation. Results indicated that Coniochaeta growth on the toothpicks enhanced growth of nearby yeast colonies in the agar plates. In the second experiment, representatives of selected yeasts and Coniochaeta species were co-cultured on CMC and xylan-containing plates where after yeast colony formation was recorded on the plates. Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains, engineered to utilize specific wood degradation products, i.e., cellobiose or xylose, as sole carbon source were used as positive controls. While it was found that cellobiose released from CMC was assimilated by the yeasts, no evidence could be obtained that xylose released from xylan was used as carbon source by the yeasts. These ambiguous results could be ascribed to secretion of nutritious metabolic end products, other than the products of fungal xylanases. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.