Production and quantification of eritadenine, a cholesterol reducing compound in shiitake (Lentinus edodes)

Abstract: Cardiovascular diseases are among the main causes of death in our society and there is a strong correlation between enhanced blood cholesterol levels and the development of such diseases. The popular edible fungus, shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes), has been shown to produce a blood cholesterol lowering compound designated eritadenine, and the hypocholesterolemic action of this compound has been quite extensively examined in rats. Eritadenine is suggested to accelerate the removal of blood cholesterol either by stimulating tissue uptake or by inhibiting tissue release; there are no indications of this compound inhibiting the biosynthesis of cholesterol. If shiitake mushrooms are to be used as a source for a potential cholesterol reducing product, it is of great importance to determine the content of eritadenine in the mushrooms as accurately as possible. Hence, in paper I methanol extraction was used to recover as much as possible of the hypocholesterolemic agent from the fungal cells. In order to analyse the target compound, a reliable and reproducible HPLC method for separation, identification and quantification of eritadenine was developed. The amounts of eritadenine in fruit bodies of four commercially cultivated shiitake mushrooms were determined, and the mushrooms under investigation exhibited up to ten times higher levels of eritadenine (3.17-6.33 mg/g dry mushrooms) than previously reported. Not only the fruit bodies of shiitake, but also its mycelia contain eritadenine. Growing fruit bodies of shiitake is a fairly demanding and time consuming process. Hence, in search for a source of eritadenine, submerged (liquid) cultivation of shiitake mycelia could be an alternative. The reason why shiitake mushrooms synthesize eritadenine is yet not clarified; i.e. the function of this secondary metabolite and the growth conditions that favour its production are not elucidated. In addition, like other filamentous fungi, shiitake exhibits different hyphal morphologies in submerged cultures depending on cultivation conditions such as medium composition, temperature, pH, inoculum concentration, dissolved oxygen and shear. The fungal metabolism and hence production of secondary metabolites is in turn affected by the morphology, as have been shown in several studies on filamentous fungi. Submerged cultivation of shiitake mycelia offers a convenient way to change the cultivating conditions in order to improve eritadenine yield and productivity. The study in paper II focused on cultivation of mycelia at different conditions, both in shake flasks and in bioreactors, to investigate the effect of pH and stirring rate on production of eritadenine. The shiitake mycelia were found to produce eritadenine, and the compound of interest was found in both the fungal cells and the growth media. The major part (90-99%) was found in the culture medium, which offers a facilitated downstream processing if large scale production of the compound is to be conducted. The mycelial morphology in the shake flask cultures were macroscopic aggregates, pellets, and the specific productivity of eritadenine was relatively low; 6.56 mg/g dry cell weight (DCW). In the bioreactor cultivations, the mycelia grew as freely dispersed filaments, showing a higher specific productivity than in the shake flasks, ranging between 26.00- 39.58 mg/g DCW. This indicates the influence of morphology on eritadenine production. The biomass yield in shake flasks and bioreactors was in parity; 0.45 g in the shake flasks and 0.25- 0.62 g in the bioreactors. A stirring rate of 50 rpm in the bioreactors was preferable for eritadenine production, whereas for biomass production it was 250 rpm, indicating the influence of agitation on both growth and productivity. The pH did not have any major impact on growth, whereas the specific productivity in the bioreactors was higher when pH was uncontrolled than controlled at 5.7.