Cyclofarnesoids and methylhexanoids produced from β-carotene in Phycomyces blakesleeanus

Eugenio Alcalde Rodriguez, Humberto R. Medina, María de Mar Herrador, Alejandro F. Barrero, Enrique Cerdá Olmedo

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The oxidative cleavage of b-carotene in the Mucorales produces three fragments of 18, 15, and 7 carbons, respective heads of three families of apocarotenoids: the methylhexanoids, the trisporoids, and the cyclo- farnesoids (named after their 1,6-cyclofarnesane skeleton). The apocarotenoids are easily recognized because they are absent in white mutants unable to produce b-carotene. In cultures of Phycomyces bla- kesleeanus we detected thirty-two apocarotenoids by LC, UV absorbance, and MS. With additional IR and NMR we identified two methylhexanoids and the eight most abundant cyclofarnesoids. Four of them were previously-unknown natural compounds, including 4-dihydrocyclofarnesine S, the most abundant cyclofarnesoid in young cultures. We arranged the apocarotenoids of the Mucorales in a scheme that helps classifying and naming them and suggests possible metabolites and biosynthetic pathways. We propose specific biosynthetic pathways for cyclofarnesoids and methylhexanoids based on structural comparisons, the time course of appearance of individual compounds, and the bioconversion of b-apo- 12-carotenol, an early precursor, to three more oxygenated cyclofarnesoids by the white mutants. Some of the reactions occur spontaneously in the increasingly acidic culture media. Mating increased the contents of methylhexanoids and cyclofarnesoids by ca. threefold in young cultures and ca. twelve- fold in old ones (five days); cyclofarnesine S, the most abundant cyclofarnesoid in old cultures, increased over one hundredfold. We found no differences between the sexes and no activity as sexual pheromones, but we suggest that methylhexanoids and cyclofarnesoids could mediate species-specific physiology and behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Early online date4 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Phycomyces Blakesleeanus
  • Mucorales
  • Bioconversion
  • Cyclofarnesoids
  • Methylhexanoids
  • beta-carotene
  • Apocarotenoids

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