Biotechnol Biofuels Bioprod. 2022 May 20;15(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s13068-022-02140-y.
BACKGROUND: The green microalga Haematococcus pluvialis is used as a cell factory for producing astaxanthin, the high-value carotenoid with multiple biological functions. However, H. pluvialis is prone to the infection by a parasitic fungus Paraphysoderma sedebokerense, which is the most devastating threat to the mass culture of H. pluvialis all over the world. Through dissecting the mechanisms underlying the infection process, effective measures could be developed to mitigate the pathogen threatening for the natural astaxanthin industry. By far, understanding about the interaction between the algal host and fungal pathogen remains very limited.
RESULTS: We observed that there were heat-stable substances with small molecular weight produced during the infection process and enhanced the susceptibility of H. pluvialis cells to the pathogen. The infection ratio increased from 10.2% (for the algal cells treated with the BG11 medium as the control) to 52.9% (for the algal cells treated with supernatant contained such substances) on the second day post-infection, indicating the yet unknown substances in the supernatant stimulated the parasitism process. Systematic approaches including multi-omics, biochemical and imaging analysis were deployed to uncover the identity of the metabolites and the underlying mechanisms. Two metabolites, 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid and hordenine were identified and proved to stimulate the infection via driving oxidative stress to the algal cells. These metabolites generated hydroxyl radicals to disrupt the subcellular components of the algal cells and to make the algal cells more susceptible to the infection. Based on these findings, a biosafe and environment-friendly antioxidant butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) was selected to inhibit the fungal infection, which completely abolished the infection at 12 ppm. By applying 7 ppm BHA every 2 days to the algal cell culture infected with P. sedebokerense in the 100 L open raceway ponds, the biomass of H. pluvialis reached 0.448 g/L, which was comparable to that of the control (0.473 g/L).
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides for the first time, a framework to dissect the functions of secondary metabolites in the interaction between the unicellular alga H. pluvialis and its fungal parasite, indicating that oxidative degradation is a strategy used for the fungal infest. Eliminating the oxidative burst through adding antioxidant BHA could be an effective measure to reduce parasitic infection in H. pluvialis mass culture.