Five novel and highly efficient endophytic fungi isolated from Huperzia serrata expressing huperzine A for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2020 Nov;104(21):9159-9177. doi: 10.1007/s00253-020-10894-4. Epub 2020 Sep 24.


Huperzine A (Hup A) is an important drug for treating Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mainly extracted from the Huperzia serrata (Thunb.) Trevis. (Lycopodiaceae) (HS). Nevertheless, the content of Hup A in HS is very low of 0.007% with growing circle of 8 to 10 years, and the chemical synthesis of Hup A still has some insurmountable limitations in the industrialized production. So, the available resources of Hup A for clinical treatment of AD are scarce. The purpose of this work was to construct a biosynthesis platform based on the endophytic fungi from HS. In this work, five endophytic fungi Mucor racemosus NSH-D, Mucor fragilis NSY-1, Fusarium verticillioides NSH-5, Fusarium oxysporum NSG-1, and Trichoderma harzianum NSW-V were firstly found and isolated from the Chinese folk medicine HS, which were identified according to their morphological characteristics and nuclear ribosomal DNA ITS sequences. The highest efficient fungus could effectively biosynthesize Hup A in a liquid culture of 319.8 ± 0.17 mg/L which were 112 times higher than that of other reported conventional endophytic fungi. Moreover, these fungi with higher hereditary stability could possess the initial expressing ability of Hup A after 40 generations, and the expressed Hup A from these biosynthesis systems has prior physicochemical properties, a better inhibition activity of acetylcholinesterase and a lower cytotoxicity compared with the listed active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) of Hup A. These results provide promising alternative resources for producing Hup A at an industrial scale by biosynthesis, and it may also shed light on millions of AD patients. KEY POINTS: • Five novel endophytic fungi with high stability could highly express prior Hup A Graphical abstract.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Biosynthesis systems; Endophytic fungus; Highly efficient; Huperzia serrata; Huperzine A.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Alzheimer Disease* / drug therapy
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Endophytes
  • Fusarium
  • Humans
  • Huperzia*
  • Hypocreales
  • Mucor
  • Sesquiterpenes*


  • Alkaloids
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • huperzine A

Supplementary concepts

  • Fusarium oxysporum
  • Fusarium verticillioides
  • Mucor fragilis
  • Mucor racemosus
  • Trichoderma harzianum