Ishizuchi-kurocha is a Japanese traditional fermented tea that is produced by primary aerobic and secondary fermentation steps. The secondary fermentation step of Ishizuchi-kurocha is mainly mediated through lactic acid bacteria. Here, we performed quantitative analyses of the culturable fungal communities at each step and identified several morphologically representative fungal isolates. While filamentous fungi (median, 3.2 × 107 CFU/g sample) and yeasts (median, 3.7 × 107 CFU/g) were both detected after the primary fermentation step, only yeasts (median, 1.6 × 107 CFU/g) were detected in the end of the secondary fermentation step, suggesting that the fungal community in tea leaves are dramatically changed between the two steps. Pichia kudriavzevii and Pichia manshurica, the prevalent fungal species at the end of the secondary fermentation step, grew well in exudate from the secondary fermentation step. P. kudriavzevii also grew well in media containing d- or l-lactate as the sole carbon source. The growth of the disruptant of cyb2A encoding a cytochrome b2 lactate dehydrogenase in P. kudriavzevii was severely impaired on medium supplemented with l-lactate, but not d-lactate, suggesting that Cyb2Ap plays a crucial role in the use of l-lactate, and P. kudriavzevii efficiently uses both l- and d-lactate as carbon sources. Thus, lactate assimilation seems to be a key phenotype to become a prevalent species in the secondary fermentation step, and Cyb2Ap has a pivotal role in l-lactate metabolism in P. kudriavzevii. Further understanding and engineering of P. kudriavzevii and P. manshurica will contribute to the control of lactic acid bacteria fermentation during the fermented tea production and also to other industrial uses.
Keywords: Aspergillus section Nigri; Pichia kudriavzevii; Pichia manshurica; Post-fermented tea; cyb2A.
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