Desert soil fungi isolated from Saudi Arabia: cultivable fungal community and biochemical production
Saudi J Biol Sci. 2022 Apr;29(4):2409-2420. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2021.12.011. Epub 2021 Dec 10.
Desert soils harbor fungi that have survived under highly stressed conditions of high temperature and little available moisture. This study was designed to survey the communities of cultivable fungi in the desert soils of the Arabian Peninsula and to screen the fungi for the potentially valuable antioxidants (flavonoids, phenols, saponins, steroids, tannins, terpenoids, and alkaloids) and enzymes (cellulase, laccase, lipase, protease, amylase, and chitinase). Desert soil was sampled at 30 localities representing different areas of Saudi Arabia and studied for physico-chemical soil properties. Five types of soil texture (sand, loamy sand, sandy loam, silty loam, and sandy clay loam) were observed. A total of 25 saprotrophic species was identified molecularly from 68 isolates. Our survey revealed 13 culturable fungal species that have not been reported previously from Arabian desert soils and six more species not reported from Saudi Arabian desert soils. The most commonly recorded genera were Aspergillus (isolated from 20 localities) and Penicillium (6 localities). The measurements of biochemicals revealed that antioxidants were produced by 49 and enzymes by 52 isolates; only six isolates did not produce any biochemicals. The highest biochemical activity was observed for the isolates Fusarium brachygibbosum and A. phoenicis. Other active isolates were A. proliferans and P. chrysogenum. The same species, for instance, A. niger had isolates of both high and low biochemical activities. Principal component analysis gave a tentative indication of a relationship between the biochemical activity of fungi isolated from soil and soil texture variables namely the content of silt, clay and sand. However, any generalizable relation between soil properties and fungal biochemical activities cannot be suggested. Each fungal isolate is probable to produce several antioxidants and enzymes, as shown by the correlation within the compound groups. Desert soil warrants further research as a promising source of biochemicals.