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Biogeography, Host Specificity, and Molecular Phylogeny of the Basidiomycetous Yeast Phaffia rhodozyma and Its Sexual Form, Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous

Libkind, Diego, Ruffini, Alejandra, van Broock, Maria, Alves, Leonor, Sampaio, José Paulo
Applied and environmental microbiology 2007 v.73 no.4 pp. 1120-1125
Betulaceae, Cornus, Cyttaria, Fagaceae, Nothofagus, altitude, astaxanthin, biogeography, cognition, fish culture, fruiting bodies, host specificity, hosts, intergenic DNA, internal transcribed spacers, latitude, parasites, phylogeny, pigmentation, pigments, sisters, trees, yeasts, Argentina
Phaffia rhodozyma (sexual form, Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous) is a basidiomycetous yeast that has been found in tree exudates in the Northern Hemisphere at high altitudes and latitudes. This yeast produces astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment with biotechnological importance because it is used in aquaculture for fish pigmentation. We isolated X. dendrorhous from the Southern Hemisphere (Patagonia, Argentina), where it was associated with fruiting bodies of Cyttaria hariotii, an ascomycetous parasite of Nothofagus trees. We compared internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-based phylogenies of P. rhodozyma and its tree host (Betulaceae, Corneaceae, Fagaceae, and Nothofagaceae) and found them to be generally concordant, suggesting that different yeast lineages colonize different trees and providing an explanation for the phylogenetic distance observed between the type strains of P. rhodozyma and X. dendrorhous. We hypothesize that the association of Xanthophyllomyces with Cyttaria derives from a previous association of the yeast with Nothofagus, and the sister relationship between Nothofagaceae and Betulaceae plus Fagaceae correlates with the phylogeny of X. dendrorhous strains originating from these three plant families. The two most basal strains of X. dendrorhous are those isolated from Cornus, an ancestral genus in the phylogenetic analysis of the host trees. Thus, we question previous conclusions that P. rhodozyma and X. dendrorhous represent different species since the polymorphisms detected in the ITS and intergenic spacer sequences can be attributed to intraspecific variation associated with host specificity. Our study provides a deeper understanding of Phaffia biogeography, ecology, and molecular phylogeny. Such knowledge is essential for the comprehension of many aspects of the biology of this organism and will facilitate the study of astaxanthin production within an evolutionary and ecological framework.