Diversity and antioxidant activity of culturable endophytic fungi from alpine plants of Rhodiola crenulata, R. angusta, and R. sachalinensis

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 13;10(3):e0118204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118204. eCollection 2015.


Rhodiola spp. are rare and endangered alpine plants widely used as medicines and food additives by many civilizations since ancient times. Their main effective ingredients (such as salidroside and p-tyrosol) are praised to exhibit pharmacologic effects on high-altitude sickness and possess anti-aging and other adaptogenic capacities based on their antioxidant properties. In this study, 347 endophytic fungi were isolated from R. crenulata, R. angusta, and R. sachalinensis, and the molecular diversity and antioxidant activities of these fungi were investigated for the first time. These fungi were categorized into 180 morphotypes based on cultural characteristics, and their rRNA gene ITS sequences were analyzed by BLAST search in the GenBank database. Except for 12 unidentified fungi (6.67%), all others were affiliated to at least 57 genera in 20 orders of four phyla, namely, Ascomycota (88.89%), Basidiomycota (2.78%), Zygomycota (1.11%), and Glomeromycota (0.56%), which exhibited high abundance and diversity. Antioxidant assay showed that the DPPH radical-scavenging rates of 114 isolates (63.33%) were >50%, and those of five isolates (Rct45, Rct63, Rct64, Rac76, and Rsc57) were >90%. The EC50 values of five antioxidant assays suggested significant potential of these fungi on scavenging DPPH•, O2-•, and OH• radicals, as well as scavenging nitrite and chelating Fe2+, which showed preference and selection between endophytic fungi and their hosts. Further research also provided the first evidence that Rac12 could produce salidrosides and p-tyrosol. Results suggested that versatile endophytic fungi associated with Rhodiola known as antioxidants could be exploited as potential sources of novel antioxidant products.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Biodiversity
  • Fungi / metabolism*
  • Glucosides / metabolism
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Rhodiola / microbiology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Glucosides
  • Phenols
  • rhodioloside