Metschnikowia pulcherrima synthesises the pigment pulcherrimin, from cyclodileucine (cyclo(Leu-Leu)) as a precursor, and exhibits strong antifungal activity against notorious plant pathogenic fungi. This yeast therefore has great potential for biocontrol applications against fungal diseases; particularly in the phyllosphere where this species is frequently found. To elucidate the molecular basis of the antifungal activity of M. pulcherrima, we compared a wild-type strain with a spontaneously occurring, pigmentless, weakly antagonistic mutant derivative. Whole genome sequencing of the wild-type and mutant strains identified a point mutation that creates a premature stop codon in the transcriptional regulator gene SNF2 in the mutant. Complementation of the mutant strain with the wild-type SNF2 gene restored pigmentation and recovered the strong antifungal activity. Mass spectrometry (UPLC HR HESI-MS) proved the presence of the pulcherrimin precursors cyclo(Leu-Leu) and pulcherriminic acid and identified new precursor and degradation products of pulcherriminic acid and/or pulcherrimin. All of these compounds were identified in the wild-type and complemented strain, but were undetectable in the pigmentless snf2 mutant strain. These results thus identify Snf2 as a regulator of antifungal activity and pulcherriminic acid biosynthesis in M. pulcherrima and provide a starting point for deciphering the molecular functions underlying the antagonistic activity of this yeast. © 2019 The Authors. Molecular Microbiology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Journal: Molecular microbiology