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Lett Appl Microbiol. 2009 Jun;48(6):705-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02599.x. Epub 2009 Mar 30.

Factors affecting the production of Trichoderma harzianum secondary metabolites during the interaction with different plant pathogens.

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Dipartimento di Arboricoltura, Botanica e Patologia Vegetale, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Portici (Naples), Italy.



Strains of Trichoderma spp. produce numerous bioactive secondary metabolites. The in vitro production and antibiotic activities of the major compounds synthesized by Trichoderma harzianum strains T22 and T39 against Leptosphaeria maculans, Phytophthora cinnamomi and Botrytis cinerea were evaluated. Moreover, the eliciting effect of viable or nonviable biomasses of Rhizoctonia solani, Pythium ultimum or B. cinerea on the in vitro production of these metabolites was also investigated.


T22azaphilone, 1-hydroxy-3-methyl-anthraquinone, 1,8-dihydroxy-3-methyl-anthraquinone, T39butenolide, harzianolide, harzianopyridone were purified, characterized and used as standards. In antifungal assays, T22azaphilone and harzianopyridone inhibited the growth of the pathogens tested even at low doses (1-10 microg per plug), while high concentrations of T39butenolide and harzianolide were needed (>100 microg per plug) for inhibition. The in vitro accumulation of these metabolites was quantified by LC/MS. T22azaphilone production was not enhanced by the presence of the tested pathogens, despite its antibiotic activity. On the other hand, the anthraquinones, which showed no pathogen inhibition, were stimulated by the presence of P. ultimum. The production of T39butenolide was significantly enhanced by co-cultivation with R. solani or B. cinerea. Similarly, viable and nonviable biomasses of R. solani or B. cinerea increased the accumulation of harzianopyridone. Finally, harzianolide was not detected in any of the interactions examined.


The secondary metabolites analysed in this study showed different levels of antibiotic activity. Their production in vitro varied in relation to: (i) the specific compound; (ii) the phytopathogen used for the elicitation; (iii) the viability of the elicitor; and (iv) the balance between elicited biosynthesis and biotransformation rates.


The use of cultures of phytopathogens to enhance yields of Trichoderma metabolites could improve the production and application of novel biopesticides and biofertilizers based on the active compounds instead of the living microbe. This could have a significant beneficial impact on the management of diseases in crop plants.

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