Relationships among the biosyntheses of ubiquinone, carotene, sterols, and triacylglycerols in Zygomycetes

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The Zygomycetes Phycomyces blakesleeanus and Blakeslea trispora are actual or potential sources of β-carotene, ergosterol, ubiquinone, edible oil, and other compounds. By feeding [14C]acetyl-CoA, L-[14C]leucine, or R-[14C]mevalonate in the presence of excess unlabeled glucose, we found that ubiquinone (the terpenoid moiety), β-carotene, and triacylglycerols were made from separate pools of all their common intermediates; the pools for ubiquinone and ergosterol were indistinguishable. Fatty acids were not labeled from mevalonate, showing the absence in these fungi of a shunt pathway that would recycle carbon from mevalonate and its products back to central metabolism. The overproduction of carotene in a Phycomyces mutant and in sexually mated cultures of Blakeslea modified the relative use of labeled and unlabeled carbon sources in the production of carotene, but not of the other compounds. We concluded that carotene, ubiquinone, and triacylglycerols are synthesized in separate subcellular compartments, while sterols and ubiquinone are synthesized in the same compartments or in compartments that exchange precursors. Carotene biosynthesis was regulated specifically and not by flow diversion in a branched pathway.

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