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1 Cold-adapted enzymes and other bioactive secondary metabolites with new biological properties of potential biotechnological interest have been reported from Antarctic soil fungi. Fungi are an unmapped and untapped source of enzymes and secondary metabolit + 683 word(s) 683 2020-09-07 15:54:29

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Zucconi, L.; Canini, F.; Temporiti, M.E.; Tosi, S. Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 13 June 2024).
Zucconi L, Canini F, Temporiti ME, Tosi S. Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 13, 2024.
Zucconi, Laura, Fabiana Canini, Marta Elisabetta Temporiti, Solveig Tosi. "Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 13, 2024).
Zucconi, L., Canini, F., Temporiti, M.E., & Tosi, S. (2020, September 09). Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting. In Encyclopedia.
Zucconi, Laura, et al. "Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting." Encyclopedia. Web. 09 September, 2020.
Antarctic Soil Fungi for Bioprospecting

Antarctica, one of the harshest environments in the world, has been successfully colonized by extremophilic, psychrophilic, and psychrotolerant microorganisms, facing a range of extreme conditions. Fungi are the most diverse taxon in the Antarctic ecosystems, including soils. Genetic adaptation to this environment results in the synthesis of a range of metabolites with different functional roles in relation to the biotic and abiotic environmental factors. Cold-adapted enzymes and other bioactive secondary metabolites with new biological properties of potential biotechnological interest have been reported to date from filamentous fungi and yeasts inhabiting Antarctic soils, and further could be recovered. Antarctic fungi are a source of enzymes and secondary metabolites with an incredible application potential, deserving to be studied always in agreement with the provisions of Article III.1 of the Antarctic Treaty, concerning scientific exchanges and the availability of scientific observations and results from the continent.

Soil fungi Antarctic soil Adaptation Enzymes Bioprospecting Bioactive compounds Cold adapted enzymes new compounds

1. Introduction

Antarctica represents a very attractive location to search for novel cold-adapted enzymes or bioactive compounds both for being a permanently cold environment and because of the minimum human-associated activity. The fungal component of Antarctic soils is mostly represented by few psychrophilic and many mesophilic-psychrotolerant and oligotrophic species well adapted to the Antarctic constrains[1]. Some Antarctic soil fungi, in particular, have developed multiple mechanisms of stress tolerance, as the activation of peculiar metabolic pathways and the production of either enzymes active at temperatures below the common limits, or other bioactive compounds of great potential value for biotechnological applications[2]. The search on fungi in Antarctica deserves to be improved, and the preservation of isolated strains in culture collections is mandatory, to have available wide and unique sources of new bioactive producers[3].

2. Enzymes

Cold-adapted enzymes produced by psychrophilic or psychrotolerant microorganisms are an important element for the survival strategy in Antarctic ecosystems. In fact, if extremely low temperatures generally restrict microbial enzyme activity, cold-active enzymes can conduct transformations at lower temperatures than those produced by their mesophilic homologues. They display a high specific activity at low and moderate temperatures, associated with a relatively high thermosensitivity[4]. These properties make them a potentially valuable alternative to their mesophilic counterparts in cold environments. They may represent an interesting advantage in large scale processes, that generally occur at higher temperatures, for reducing the energy costs associated with heating steps[5][6]. In the meantime, the thermosensitivity provides the possibility of rapidly inactivating them by mild heat treatments, preserving in this way the product quality[4]. Some hypotheses have been proposed to explain the cold adaptation of these enzymes compared to their mesophilic and/or thermophilic counterparts, and amino acid substitutions was supposed as a possible mechanism. These properties with regard to their current and possible applications in biotechnology have been reviewed by Marx et al.[4]. Additionally, Antarctic enzymes often exhibit a wide range of pH and temperature optima[7]. This latter property is strictly linked to wide, frequent and sudden temperature variations experienced by terrestrial surfaces, based on soil expositions and weather conditions. 

3. Other Bioactive Compounds

In addition to enzymes, fungi are a rich reservoir of different classes of secondary metabolites, such as terpenoids, polyketides, alkaloids, polyacetylenes with demonstrated antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antitumoral, herbicidal and antiprotozoal activities. These molecules play a pivotal role in the inter- and intra-specific interactions within the soil microbial communities and provide them competitive advantages over other microorganisms[3][8].

Because of the recent emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic microorganisms, and the connected risks for public health, the search for novel classes of active compounds in this context is worth to be developed for its strong practical importance, as it has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a threat to human health[9][10]. Extreme environments could be an excellent source of new antibiotics and, in this context, Antarctica, an almost unknown continent, is potentially of great interest. An overview of secondary metabolites with versatile antimicrobial potential was reported by Bratchkova and Ivanova[11] from Arctic and Antarctic microorganisms and their possible role in the adaptation and survival of microorganisms in the ice deserts was discussed. Some strains are good producers of secondary metabolites with multiple activities[3]


  1. Serena Ruisi; Donatella Barreca; Laura Selbmann; Laura Zucconi; Silvano Onofri; Fungi in Antarctica. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology 2006, 6, 127-141, 10.1007/s11157-006-9107-y.
  2. Rosa, L.H.; Zani, C.L.; Cantrell, C.L.; Duke, S.O.; Van Dijck, P.; Desideri, A.; Rosa, C.A.. Fungi of Antarctica. Diversity, Ecology and Biotechnological Application; Springer Nature: Basel, Switzerland, 2019; pp. 1-17.
  3. Valéria M. Godinho; Vívian N. Gonçalves; Iara F. Santiago; Hebert M. Figueredo; Gislaine A. Vitoreli; Carlos Ernesto Gonçalves Reynaud Schaefer; Emerson C. Barbosa; Jaquelline G. Oliveira; Tânia M. A. Alves; Carlos Leomar Zani; et al.Policarpo A. S. JuniorSilvane M. F. MurtaÁlvaro J. RomanhaErna G. KroonCharles L. CantrellDavid E. WedgeStephen O. DukeAbbas AliCarlos A. RosaLuiz Henrique Rosa Diversity and bioprospection of fungal community present in oligotrophic soil of continental Antarctica. Extremophiles 2015, 19, 585-596, 10.1007/s00792-015-0741-6.
  4. J-C. Marx; Tony Collins; S. D’Amico; G. Feller; Charles Gerday; Cold-Adapted Enzymes from Marine Antarctic Microorganisms. Marine Biotechnology 2006, 9, 293-304, 10.1007/s10126-006-6103-8.
  5. Georges Feller; Charles Gerday; Psychrophilic enzymes: hot topics in cold adaptation. Nature Reviews Microbiology 2003, 1, 200-208, 10.1038/nrmicro773.
  6. Ricardo Cavicchioli; Khawar S Siddiqui; David Andrews; Kevin R Sowers; Low-temperature extremophiles and their applications. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2002, 13, 253-261, 10.1016/s0958-1669(02)00317-8.
  7. Alysson Wagner Fernandes Duarte; Juliana Aparecida Dos Santos; Marina Vitti Vianna; Juliana Maíra Freitas Vieira; Vitor Hugo Mallagutti; Fabio José Inforsato; Lia Costa Pinto Wentzel; Luciana Daniela Lario; André Rodrigues; Fernando Carlos Pagnocca; et al.Adalberto Pessoa JuniorLara D Sette Cold-adapted enzymes produced by fungi from terrestrial and marine Antarctic environments. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology 2017, 38, 600-619, 10.1080/07388551.2017.1379468.
  8. Vaca, I.; Chávez, R.. Fungi of Antarctica. Diversity, Ecology and Biotechnological Application; Springer Nature: Basel, Switzerland, 2019; pp. 265-283.
  9. Lynn L. Silver; Challenges of Antibacterial Discovery. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 2011, 24, 71-109, 10.1128/cmr.00030-10.
  10. World Health Organization Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance. 2014 . World Health Organization. Retrieved 2020-9-8
  11. Anna Bratchkova; Veneta Ivanova; Bioactive Metabolites Produced by Microorganisms Collected in Antarctica and the Arctic. Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment 2011, 25, 1-7, 10.5504/bbeq.2011.0116.
Subjects: Microbiology
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