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Fungi associated with rocks of the Atacama Desert: taxonomy, distribution, diversity, ecology and bioprospection for bioactive compounds

Vívian N. Gonçalves, Charles L. Cantrell, David E. Wedge, Mariana C. Ferreira, Marco Aurélio Soares, Melissa R. Jacob, Fabio S. Oliveira, Douglas Galante, Fabio Rodrigues, Tânia M. A. Alves, Carlos L. Zani, Policarpo A. S. Junior, Silvane Murta, Alvaro J. Romanha, Emerson C. Barbosa, Erna G. Kroon, Jaquelline G. Oliveira, Benito Gomez‐Silva, Alexandra Galetovic, Carlos A. Rosa, Luiz H. Rosa
Environmental microbiology 2016 v.18 no.1 pp. 232-245
Cladosporium, Cryptococcus neoformans, DNA, Penicillium chrysogenum, Staphylococcus aureus, alpha-linolenic acid, altitude, ergosterol, fungal communities, fungi, habitats, parasites, pathogens, rocks, saprophytes, taxonomy
This study assessed the diversity of cultivable rock‐associated fungi from Atacama Desert. A total of 81 fungal isolates obtained were identified as 29 Ascomycota taxa by sequencing different regions of DNA. Cladosporium halotolerans, Penicillium chrysogenum and Penicillium cf. citrinum were the most frequent species, which occur at least in four different altitudes. The diversity and similarity indices ranged in the fungal communities across the latitudinal gradient. The Fisher‐α index displayed the higher values for the fungal communities obtained from the siltstone and fine matrix of pyroclastic rocks with finer grain size, which are more degraded. A total of 23 fungal extracts displayed activity against the different targets screened. The extract of P. chrysogenum afforded the compounds α‐linolenic acid and ergosterol endoperoxide, which were active against Cryptococcus neoformans and methicillin‐resistance Staphylococcus aureus respectively. Our study represents the first report of a new habitat of fungi associated with rocks of the Atacama Desert and indicated the presence of interesting fungal community, including species related with saprobes, parasite/pathogen and mycotoxigenic taxa. The geological characteristics of the rocks, associated with the presence of rich resident/resilient fungal communities suggests that the rocks may provide a favourable microenvironment fungal colonization, survival and dispersal in extreme conditions.