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1.  Identification and functional characterization of the CYP51 gene from the yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous that is involved in ergosterol biosynthesis 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:89.
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous is a basidiomycetous yeast that synthesizes astaxanthin, a carotenoid with great biotechnological impact. The ergosterol and carotenoid synthetic pathways derive from the mevalonate pathway and involve cytochrome P450 enzymes. Among these enzymes, the CYP51 family, which is involved in ergosterol biosynthesis, is one of the most remarkable that has C14-demethylase activity.
In this study, the CYP51 gene from X. dendrorhous was isolated and its function was analyzed. The gene is composed of ten exons and encodes a predicted 550 amino acid polypeptide that exhibits conserved cytochrome P450 structural characteristics and shares significant identity with the sterol C14-demethylase from other fungi. The functionality of this gene was confirmed by heterologous complementation in S. cerevisiae. Furthermore, a CYP51 gene mutation in X. dendrorhous reduced sterol production by approximately 40% and enhanced total carotenoid production by approximately 90% compared to the wild-type strain after 48 and 120 h of culture, respectively. Additionally, the CYP51 gene mutation in X. dendrorhous increased HMGR (hydroxy-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, involved in the mevalonate pathway) and crtR (cytochrome P450 reductase) transcript levels, which could be associated with reduced ergosterol production.
These results suggest that the CYP51 gene identified in X. dendrorhous encodes a functional sterol C14-demethylase that is involved in ergosterol biosynthesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0428-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4415319  PMID: 25906980
Cytochrome P450 enzyme systems (P450); Astaxanthin; Sterols; Sterol C14-demethylase
2.  Codon usage and codon context bias in Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):293.
Synonymous codons are used differentially in organisms from the three domains of life, a phenomenon referred to as codon usage bias. In addition, codon pair bias, particularly in the 3’ codon context, has also been described in several organisms and is associated with the accuracy and rate of translation. An improved understanding of both types of bias is important for the optimization of heterologous protein expression, particularly in biotechnologically important organisms, such as the yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, a promising bioresource for the carotenoid astaxanthin. Using genomic and transcriptomic data, the codon usage and codon context biases of X. dendrorhous open reading frames (ORFs) were analyzed to determine their expression levels, GC% and sequence lengths. X. dendrorhous totiviral ORFs were also included in these analyses.
A total of 1,695 X. dendrorhous ORFs were identified through comparison with sequences in multiple databases, and the intron-exon structures of these sequences were determined. Although there were important expression variations among the ORFs under the studied conditions (different phases of growth and available carbon sources), most of these sequences were highly expressed under at least one of the analyzed conditions. Independent of the culture conditions, the highly expressed genes showed a strong bias in both codon usage and the 3’ context, with a minor association with the GC% and no relationship to the sequence length. The codon usage and codon-pair bias of the totiviral ORFs were highly variable with no similarities to the host ORFs.
There is a direct relation between the level of gene expression and codon usage and 3′ context bias in X. dendrorhous, which is more evident for ORFs that are expressed at the highest levels under the studied conditions. However, there is no direct relation between the totiviral ORF biases and the host ORFs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1493-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4404019  PMID: 25887493
Codon usage bias; X. dendrorhous; Codon context bias
3.  Identification and analysis of metabolite production with biotechnological potential in Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous isolates 
Antarctic microorganisms have developed different strategies to live in their environments, including modifications to their membrane components to regulate fluidity and the production of photoprotective metabolites such as carotenoids. Three yeast colonies (ANCH01, ANCH06 and ANCH08) were isolated from soil samples collected at King George Island, which according to their rDNA sequence analyses, were determined to be Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous. This yeast is of biotechnological interest, because it can synthesize astaxanthin as its main carotenoid, which is a powerful antioxidant pigment used in aquaculture. Then, the aim of this work was to characterize the ANCH isolates at their molecular and phenotypic level. The isolates did not display any differences in their rDNA and COX1 gene nucleotide sequences. However, ANCH01 produces approximately sixfold more astaxanthin than other wild type strains. Moreover, even though ANCH06 and ANCH08 produce astaxanthin, their main carotenoid was β-carotene. In contrast to other X. dendrorhous strains, the ANCH isolates did not produce mycosporines. Finally, the ANCH isolates had a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids than other wild type strains. In conclusion, the reported X. dendrorhous isolates are phenotypically different from other wild type strains, including characteristics that could make them more resistant and better able to inhabit their original habitat, which may also have biotechnological potential.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11274-015-1808-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4333312  PMID: 25643668
Carotenoids; Astaxanthin; Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous; Phaffia rhodozyma; Polyunsaturated fatty acids
4.  Increase in the astaxanthin synthase gene (crtS) dose by in vivo DNA fragment assembly in Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous 
BMC Biotechnology  2013;13:84.
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous is a basidiomycetous yeast that is relevant to biotechnology, as it can synthesize the carotenoid astaxanthin. However, the astaxanthin levels produced by wild-type strains are low. Although different approaches for promoting increased astaxanthin production have been attempted, no commercially competitive results have been obtained thus far. A promising alternative to facilitate the production of carotenoids in this yeast involves the use of genetic modification. However, a major limitation is the few available molecular tools to manipulate X. dendrorhous.
In this work, the DNA assembler methodology that was previously described in Saccharomyces cerevisiae was successfully applied to assemble DNA fragments in vivo and integrate these fragments into the genome of X. dendrorhous by homologous recombination in only one transformation event. Using this method, the gene encoding astaxanthin synthase (crtS) was overexpressed in X. dendrorhous and a higher level of astaxanthin was produced.
This methodology could be used to easily and rapidly overexpress individual genes or combinations of genes simultaneously in X. dendrorhous, eliminating numerous steps involved in conventional cloning methods.
PMCID: PMC3852557  PMID: 24103677
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous; Astaxanthin synthase; DNA assembler
5.  Diversity and extracellular enzymatic activities of yeasts isolated from King George Island, the sub-Antarctic region 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:251.
Antarctica has been successfully colonized by microorganisms despite presenting adverse conditions for life such as low temperatures, high solar radiation, low nutrient availability and dryness. Although these “cold-loving” microorganisms are recognized as primarily responsible for nutrient and organic matter recycling/mineralization, the yeasts, in particular, remain poorly characterized and understood. The aim of this work was to study the yeast microbiota in soil and water samples collected on King George Island.
A high number of yeast isolates was obtained from 34 soil and 14 water samples. Molecular analyses based on rDNA sequences revealed 22 yeast species belonging to 12 genera, with Mrakia and Cryptococcus genera containing the highest species diversity. The species Sporidiobolus salmonicolor was by far the most ubiquitous, being identified in 24 isolates from 13 different samples. Most of the yeasts were psychrotolerant and ranged widely in their ability to assimilate carbon sources (consuming from 1 to 27 of the 29 carbon sources tested). All species displayed at least 1 of the 8 extracellular enzyme activities tested. Lipase, amylase and esterase activity dominated, while chitinase and xylanase were less common. Two yeasts identified as Leuconeurospora sp. and Dioszegia fristingensis displayed 6 enzyme activities.
A high diversity of yeasts was isolated in this work including undescribed species and species not previously isolated from the Antarctic region, including Wickerhamomyces anomalus, which has not been isolated from cold regions in general. The diversity of extracellular enzyme activities, and hence the variety of compounds that the yeasts may degrade or transform, suggests an important nutrient recycling role of microorganisms in this region. These yeasts are of potential use in industrial applications requiring high enzyme activities at low temperatures.
PMCID: PMC3499239  PMID: 23131126
Antarctic yeasts; Psychrophilic-psychrotolerant yeasts; Extracellular enzyme activities; rDNA yeast identification
6.  Enhancement of carotenoid production by disrupting the C22-sterol desaturase gene (CYP61) in Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:235.
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous is a basidiomycetous yeast that synthesizes astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid with a great biotechnological impact. The ergosterol and carotenoid synthesis pathways are derived from the mevalonate pathway, and in both pathways, cytochrome P450 enzymes are involved.
In this study, we isolated and described the X. dendrorhous CYP61 gene, which encodes a cytochrome P450 involved in ergosterol biosynthesis. This gene is composed of nine exons and encodes a 526 amino acid polypeptide that shares significant percentages of identity and similitude with the C22-sterol desaturase, CYP61, from other fungi. Mutants derived from different parental strains were obtained by disrupting the CYP61 gene with an antibiotic selection marker. These mutants were not able to produce ergosterol and accumulated ergosta-5,8,22-trien-3-ol and ergosta-5,8-dien-3-ol. Interestingly, all of the mutants had a more intense red color phenotype than their respective parental strains. The carotenoid composition was qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed by RP-HPLC, revealing that the carotenoid content was higher in the mutant strains without major changes in their composition. The expression of the HMGR gene, which encodes an enzyme involved in the mevalonate pathway (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase), was analyzed by RT-qPCR showing that its transcript levels are higher in the CYP61 mutants.
These results suggest that in X. dendrorhous, ergosterol regulates HMGR gene expression by a negative feedback mechanism and in this way; it contributes in the regulation of the carotenoid biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3552872  PMID: 23075035
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous; Astaxanthin; Ergosterol; Sterol C22-sterol desaturase; Cytochrome P450
7.  Cloning of the cytochrome p450 reductase (crtR) gene and its involvement in the astaxanthin biosynthesis of Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:169.
The yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous synthesizes astaxanthin, a carotenoid with high commercial interest. The proposed biosynthetic route in this organism is isopentenyl-pyrophosphate (IPP) → geranyleranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP) → phytoene → lycopene → β-carotene → astaxanthin. Recently, it has been published that the conversion of β-carotene into astaxanthin requires only one enzyme, astaxanthin synthase or CrtS, encoded by crtS gene. This enzyme belongs to the cytochrome P450 protein family.
In this work, a crtR gene was isolated from X. dendrorhous yeast, which encodes a cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) that provides CrtS with the necessary electrons for substrate oxygenation. We determined the structural organization of the crtR gene and its location in the yeast electrophoretic karyotype. Two transformants, CBSTr and T13, were obtained by deleting the crtR gene and inserting a hygromycin B resistance cassette. The carotenoid composition of the transformants was altered in relation to the wild type strain. CBSTr forms yellow colonies because it is unable to produce astaxanthin, hence accumulating β-carotene. T13 forms pale colonies because its astaxanthin content is reduced and its β-carotene content is increased.
In addition to the crtS gene, X. dendrorhous requires a novel gene, crtR, for the conversion of β-carotene to astaxanthin.
PMCID: PMC2575211  PMID: 18837978

Results 1-7 (7)