Metatranscriptomics Reveals Sequential Expression of Genes Involved in the Production of Melanogenesis Inhibitors by the Defined Microbial Species in Fermented Unpolished Black Rice

Microbiol Spectr. 2023 Mar 2;11(2):e0313922. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.03139-22. Online ahead of print.


Fermented products require metabolic enzymes from the microbial community for desired final products. Using a metatranscriptomic approach, the role of microorganisms in fermented products on producing compounds with a melanogenesis inhibition activity has not yet been reported. Previously, unpolished black rice (UBR) fermented with the E11 starter containing Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomycopsis fibuligera, Rhizopus oryzae, and Pediococcus pentosaceus (FUBR) showed potent melanogenesis inhibition activity. This study aimed to investigate the function of these defined microbial species in producing melanogenesis inhibitors in the FUBR using a metatranscriptomic approach. The melanogenesis inhibition activity increased in a fermentation time-dependent manner. Genes related to melanogenesis inhibitors synthesis such as carbohydrate metabolism, amino acids synthesis, fatty acids/unsaturated fatty acids synthesis, and carbohydrate transporters were analyzed. Most genes from R. oryzae and P. pentosaceus were upregulated in the early stage of the fermentation process, while those of S. cerevisiae and S. fibuligera were upregulated in the late stage. FUBR production using different combinations of the four microbial species shows that all species were required to produce the highest activity. The FUBR containing at least R. oryzae and/or P. pentosaceus exhibited a certain level of activity. These findings were in agreement with the metatranscriptomic results. Overall, the results suggested that all four species sequentially and/or coordinately synthesized metabolites during the fermentation that led to a FUBR with maximum melanogenesis inhibition activity. This study not only sheds light on crucial functions of certain microbial community on producing the melanogenesis inhibitors, but also paves the way to initiate quality improvement of melanogenesis inhibition activity in the FUBR. IMPORTANCE Fermentation of food is a metabolic process through the action of enzymes from certain microorganisms. Although roles of the microbial community in the fermented food were investigated using metatranscriptomic approach in terms of flavors, but no study has been reported so far on the function of the microorganisms on producing compounds with a melanogenesis inhibition activity. Therefore, this study explained the roles of the defined microorganisms from the selected starter in the fermented unpolished black rice (FUBR) that can produce melanogenesis inhibitor(s) using metatranscriptomic analysis. Genes from different species were upregulated at different fermentation time. All four microbial species in the FUBR sequentially and/or coordinately synthesized metabolites during fermentation that led to a FUBR with maximal melanogenesis inhibition activity. This finding contributes to a deeper understanding of the roles of certain microbial community during fermentation and led to the knowledge-based improvement for the fermented rice with potent melanogenesis inhibition activity.

Keywords: fermentation; fermented black rice; melanogenesis inhibition; metatranscriptomics; starter.