A relationship between carotenoid accumulation and the distribution of species of the fungus Neurospora in Spain

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033658. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


The ascomycete fungus Neurospora is present in many parts of the world, in particular in tropical and subtropical areas, where it is found growing on recently burned vegetation. We have sampled the Neurospora population across Spain. The sampling sites were located in the region of Galicia (northwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula), the province of Cáceres, the city of Seville, and the two major islands of the Canary Islands archipelago (Tenerife and Gran Canaria, west coast of Africa). The sites covered a latitude interval between 27.88° and 42.74°. We have identified wild-type strains of N. discreta, N. tetrasperma, N. crassa, and N. sitophila and the frequency of each species varied from site to site. It has been shown that after exposure to light Neurospora accumulates the orange carotenoid neurosporaxanthin, presumably for protection from UV radiation. We have found that each Neurospora species accumulates a different amount of carotenoids after exposure to light, but these differences did not correlate with the expression of the carotenogenic genes al-1 or al-2. The accumulation of carotenoids in Neurospora shows a correlation with latitude, as Neurospora strains isolated from lower latitudes accumulate more carotenoids than strains isolated from higher latitudes. Since regions of low latitude receive high UV irradiation we propose that the increased carotenoid accumulation may protect Neurospora from high UV exposure. In support of this hypothesis, we have found that N. crassa, the species that accumulates more carotenoids, is more resistant to UV radiation than N. discreta or N. tetrasperma. The photoprotection provided by carotenoids and the capability to accumulate different amounts of carotenoids may be responsible, at least in part, for the distribution of Neurospora species that we have observed across a range of latitudes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Geography
  • Neurospora / classification
  • Neurospora / metabolism*
  • Neurospora / radiation effects*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism*
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Radiation Tolerance*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spain
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • DNA, Fungal
  • Pigments, Biological
  • RNA, Fungal
  • RNA, Messenger
  • neurosporaxanthin
  • Carotenoids