Withanolides Production by Fungus Associated with Ashwagandha

Greg Howard
28th May, 2024

Withanolides Production by Fungus Associated with Ashwagandha

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology found that the endophytic fungus Penicillium oxalicum from Ashwagandha can produce high amounts of withanolides
  • The withanolides produced by P. oxalicum showed strong antibacterial, antioxidant, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities
  • This discovery suggests that endophytic fungi could be a reliable and efficient alternative source for producing bioactive withanolides, overcoming the limitations of plant-based extraction
Withanolides, a group of steroidal lactones, are known for their diverse bioactive properties, including antibacterial, antioxidant, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. Traditionally, these compounds are extracted from the plant Withania somnifera, commonly known as Ashwagandha. However, the production of withanolides from plant sources can be inconsistent due to variations in genotype, age, culture conditions, and geographical region. Recent research conducted by the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology has explored an alternative source for withanolides: endophytic fungi, which live inside plant tissues without causing harm to their host[1]. In this study, researchers aimed to isolate endophytic fungi capable of producing withanolides, characterize these fungi, and investigate the biological activities of the withanolides produced. The team isolated several fungal strains from W. somnifera and discovered that one particular isolate, identified as Penicillium oxalicum (WSE16), produced the highest amount of withanolides at 219 mg/L. This identification was based on morphological characteristics and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence analysis, and the findings were submitted to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) under accession number OR888725. The methanolic crude extract of P. oxalicum was further purified using column chromatography, resulting in several fractions. Among these, fractions F3 and F4 showed the highest withanolide content, with concentrations of 51.8 mg/L and 59.1 mg/L, respectively. These fractions were subjected to various biological activity assays. Both fractions exhibited significant antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, with IC50 values of 23.52 µg/ml and 17.39 µg/ml, respectively. Additionally, they demonstrated notable antioxidant activity, as evidenced by multiple assays: DPPH, superoxide anion scavenging, and reducing power assays, with IC50 values ranging from 38.71 µg/ml to 42.61 µg/ml. Furthermore, both fractions showed acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity, with IC50 values of 30.34 µg/ml and 22.05 µg/ml, respectively. Using advanced analytical techniques such as UV, FTIR, HRMS, and NMR, the withanolides in fractions F3 and F4 were identified as (20S, 22R)-1a-Acetoxy-27-hydroxywitha-5, 24-dienolide-3b-(O-b-D-glucopyranoside) and withanamide A, respectively. The findings of this study are significant as they suggest that P. oxalicum, an endophytic fungus isolated from W. somnifera, can serve as a reliable and efficient source of bioactive withanolides. This discovery opens new avenues for the production of withanolides, potentially overcoming the limitations associated with plant-based extraction. This research aligns with previous studies that have highlighted the potential of endophytic fungi in producing valuable bioactive compounds. For instance, endophytic fungi in plant tissues are known to produce a wide range of secondary metabolites and enzymes, which have various industrial and therapeutic applications[2]. Similarly, another study identified an endophytic fungus from Vinca rosea that produced a dual cholinesterase inhibitor with antioxidant activity, showcasing the diverse capabilities of endophytic fungi[3]. Moreover, the identification of P. oxalicum as an efficient producer of withanolides adds to the growing body of research on this species. A previous study found that P. oxalicum could produce enzymes that degrade lignocellulose without the need for pre-treatment, highlighting its industrial relevance[4]. The current study extends this knowledge by demonstrating the fungus's ability to produce pharmacologically important compounds like withanolides. In conclusion, the research conducted by the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology underscores the potential of endophytic fungi as an alternative and sustainable source for producing bioactive withanolides. This approach not only offers a consistent and scalable method for withanolide production but also paves the way for further exploration of endophytic fungi in biotechnology and pharmacology.

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Main Study

1) Withanolides production by the endophytic fungus Penicillium oxalicum associated with Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal.

Published 28th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Endophytic fungi: a potential source of industrial enzyme producers.


3) Cholinesterase inhibitor (Altenuene) from an endophytic fungus Alternaria alternata: optimization, purification and characterization.


4) Newly isolated Penicillium oxalicum A592-4B secretes enzymes that degrade milled rice straw with high efficiency.


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