New Insights of Ustilago maydis as Yeast Model for Genetic and Biotechnological Research: A Review

  • Dario R. Olicón-Hernández
  • Minerva G. Araiza-Villanueva
  • Juan P. Pardo
  • Elisabet Aranda
  • Guadalupe Guerra-SánchezEmail author
Review Article


The basidiomycete Ustilago maydis is a biotrophic organism responsible for corn smut disease. In recent years, it has become one of the most promising models for biochemical and biotechnological research due to advantages, such as rapid growth, and easy genetic manipulation. In some aspects, this yeast is more similar to complex eukaryotes, such as humans, compared to standard laboratory yeast models. U. maydis can be employed as a tool to explore physiological processes with more versatility than other fungi. Previously, U. maydis was only considered as a phytopathogenic fungus, but different studies have shown its potential as a research model. Therefore, numerous promising studies have focused on deepening our understanding of the natural interactions, enzyme production, and biotechnological capacity. In this review, we explore general characteristics of U. maydis, both as pathogenic and “innocuous” basidiomycete. Additionally, a comparison with other yeast models focusing on genetic, biochemical, and biotechnological research are analyzed, to emphasize the versatility, dynamism, and novelty that U. maydis has as a research model. In this review, we highlight the applications of the yeast form of the fungus; however, since the filamentous form is also of relevance, it is addressed in the present work, as well.



Olicón-Hernández and Araiza-Villanueva want to thank Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) for the postdoc fellowships (231581/454815) and Ph.D. fellowships (476544/404401) respectively. Thank you to Luis Alberto Parra, Miguel Ribes and Boletin FAMCAL for the help and permission for the use of the teliospores figure. Aranda E. thanks MINECO and FEDER funds (Ramón y Cajal contract RYC-2013-12481). This paper was also supported by CONACyT Grant 256520 and SIP-IPN (Secretaría de Investigación y Posgrado Instituto Politécnico Nacional) Grant 2018625 to Guerra-Sánchez and CONACyT Grant 254904 and PAPIIT: IN222117 of UNAM to Pardo Juan Pablo. This paper is part of the goals agreed of postdoc fellowship of Olicón-Hernández to CONACyT Mexico to consolidate the graduate program of CQB-IPN Mexico.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dario R. Olicón-Hernández
    • 1
    • 2
  • Minerva G. Araiza-Villanueva
    • 1
  • Juan P. Pardo
    • 3
  • Elisabet Aranda
    • 2
  • Guadalupe Guerra-Sánchez
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto Politécnico NacionalEscuela Nacional de Ciencias BiológicasCiudad de MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Instituto Universitario del AguaUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain
  3. 3.Facultad de Medicina, Departamento de BioquímicaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad de MéxicoMexico

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