NsdC and NsdD affect Aspergillus flavus morphogenesis and aflatoxin production.
ABSTRACT: The transcription factors NsdC and NsdD are required for sexual development in Aspergillus nidulans. We now show these proteins also play a role in asexual development in the agriculturally important aflatoxin (AF)-producing fungus Aspergillus flavus. We found that both NsdC and NsdD are required for production of asexual sclerotia, normal aflatoxin biosynthesis, and conidiophore development. Conidiophores in nsdC and nsdD deletion mutants had shortened stipes and altered conidial heads compared to those of wild-type A. flavus. Our results suggest that NsdC and NsdD regulate transcription of genes required for early processes in conidiophore development preceding conidium formation. As the cultures aged, the ?nsdC and ?nsdD mutants produced a dark pigment that was not observed in the wild type. Gene expression data showed that although AflR is expressed at normal levels, a number of aflatoxin biosynthesis genes are expressed at reduced levels in both nsd mutants. Expression of aflD, aflM, and aflP was greatly reduced in nsdC mutants, and neither aflatoxin nor the proteins for these genes could be detected. Our results support previous studies showing that there is a strong association between conidiophore and sclerotium development and aflatoxin production in A. flavus.
Project description:Homeobox proteins, a class of well conserved transcription factors, regulate the expression of targeted genes, especially those involved in development. In filamentous fungi, homeobox genes are required for normal conidiogenesis and fruiting body formation. In the present study, we identified eight homeobox (hbx) genes in the aflatoxin-producing ascomycete, Aspergillus flavus, and determined their respective role in growth, conidiation and sclerotial production. Disruption of seven of the eight genes had little to no effect on fungal growth and development. However, disruption of the homeobox gene AFLA_069100, designated as hbx1, in two morphologically different A. flavus strains, CA14 and AF70, resulted in complete loss of production of conidia and sclerotia as well as aflatoxins B₁ and B₂, cyclopiazonic acid and aflatrem. Microscopic examination showed that the Δhbx1 mutants did not produce conidiophores. The inability of Δhbx1 mutants to produce conidia was related to downregulation of brlA (bristle) and abaA (abacus), regulatory genes for conidiophore development. These mutants also had significant downregulation of the aflatoxin pathway biosynthetic genes aflC, aflD, aflM and the cluster-specific regulatory gene, aflR. Our results demonstrate that hbx1 not only plays a significant role in controlling A. flavus development but is also critical for the production of secondary metabolites, such as aflatoxins.
Project description:Aspergillus flavus produces mycotoxins especially aflatoxin B? and infects crops worldwide. As a PHD transcription factor, there is no report on the role of Rum1 in the virulence of Aspergillus spp. yet. This study explored the biological function of Rum1 in A. flavus through the construction of rum1 deletion mutants and rum1 complementation strains with the method of homologous recombination. It was found, in the study, that Rum1 negatively regulates conidiation through abaA and brlA, positively regulates sclerotia formation through nsdC, nsdD, and sclR, triggers aflatoxin biological synthesis, and enhances the activity of amylase. Our findings suggested that Rum1 plays a major role in the growth of mycelia, conidia, and sclerotia production along with aflatoxin biosynthesis in A. flavus.
Project description:The fluG gene is a member of a family of genes required for conidiation and sterigmatocystin production in Aspergillus nidulans. We examined the role of the Aspergillus flavus fluG orthologue in asexual development and aflatoxin biosynthesis. Deletion of fluG in A. flavus yielded strains with an approximately 3-fold reduction in conidiation but a 30-fold increase in sclerotial formation when grown on potato dextrose agar in the dark. The concurrent developmental changes suggest that A. flavus FluG exerts opposite effects on a mutual signaling pathway for both processes. The altered conidial development was in part attributable to delayed expression of brlA, a gene controlling conidiophore formation. Unlike the loss of sterigmatocystin production by A. nidulans fluG deletion strains, aflatoxin biosynthesis was not affected by the fluG deletion in A. flavus. In A. nidulans, FluG was recently found to be involved in the formation of dehydroaustinol, a component of a diffusible signal of conidiation. Coculturing experiments did not show a similar diffusible meroterpenoid secondary metabolite produced by A. flavus. These results suggest that the function of fluG and the signaling pathways related to conidiation are different in the two related aspergilli.
Project description:This study focused on AflSkn7, which is a stress response regulator in the aflatoxin-producing Aspergillus flavus. The ?AflSkn7 mutants exhibited partially defective conidial formation and a complete inability to generate sclerotia, indicating AflSkn7 affects A. flavus asexual and sexual development. The mutants tolerated osmotic stress but were partially susceptible to the effects of cell wall stress. Additionally, the ?AflSkn7 mutants were especially sensitive to oxidative stress. These observations confirmed that AflSkn7 influences oxidative stress responses rather than osmotic stress responses. Additionally, AflSkn7 was observed to increase aflatoxin biosynthesis and seed infection rates. These results indicate AflSkn7 affects A. flavus morphological development, stress response, aflatoxin production, and pathogenicity. The results of this study may facilitate the development of new methods to manage A. flavus infections.
Project description:Asexual development (conidiation) in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans is governed by orchestrated gene expression. The three key negative regulators of conidiation SfgA, VosA, and NsdD act at different control point in the developmental genetic cascade. Here, we have revealed that NsdD is a key repressor affecting the quantity of asexual spores in Aspergillus. Moreover, nullifying both nsdD and vosA results in abundant formation of the development specific structure conidiophores even at 12 h of liquid culture, and near constitutive activation of conidiation, indicating that acquisition of developmental competence involves the removal of negative regulation exerted by both NsdD and VosA. NsdD's role in repressing conidiation is conserved in other aspergilli, as deleting nsdD causes enhanced and precocious activation of conidiation in Aspergillus fumigatus or Aspergillus flavus. In vivo NsdD-DNA interaction analyses identify three NsdD binding regions in the promoter of the essential activator of conidiation brlA, indicating a direct repressive role of NsdD in conidiation. Importantly, loss of flbC or flbD encoding upstream activators of brlA in the absence of nsdD results in delayed activation of brlA, suggesting distinct positive roles of FlbC and FlbD in conidiation. A genetic model depicting regulation of conidiation in A. nidulans is presented.
Project description:Aflatoxin contamination in peanuts poses major challenges for vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Developing peanut varieties to combat preharvest Aspergillus flavus infection and resulting aflatoxin contamination has thus far remained a major challenge, confounded by highly complex peanut-Aspergilli pathosystem. Our study reports achieving a high level of resistance in peanut by overexpressing (OE) antifungal plant defensins MsDef1 and MtDef4.2, and through host-induced gene silencing (HIGS) of aflM and aflP genes from the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway. While the former improves genetic resistance to A. flavus infection, the latter inhibits aflatoxin production in the event of infection providing durable resistance against different Aspergillus flavus morphotypes and negligible aflatoxin content in several peanut events/lines well. A strong positive correlation was observed between aflatoxin accumulation and decline in transcription of the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway genes in both OE-Def and HIGS lines. Transcriptomic signatures in the resistant lines revealed key mechanisms such as regulation of aflatoxin synthesis, its packaging and export control, besides the role of reactive oxygen species-scavenging enzymes that render enhanced protection in the OE and HIGS lines. This is the first study to demonstrate highly effective biotechnological strategies for successfully generating peanuts that are near-immune to aflatoxin contamination, offering a panacea for serious food safety, health and trade issues in the semi-arid regions.
Project description:DNA methylation is essential for epigenetic regulation of gene transcription and development in many animals, plants and fungi. We investigated whether DNA methylation plays a role in the development and secondary metabolism of Aspergillus flavus, identified the DmtA methyltransferase from A. flavus, and produced a dmtA knock-out mutant by replacing the dmtA coding sequence with the pyrG selectable marker. The A. flavus dmtA null mutant lines produced white fluffy mycelium in liquid medium, and displayed a slightly flavescent conidial pigmentation compared with the normal yellow of the wild-type strain when grown on agar. The ?dmtA lines exhibited decreased conidiation and aflatoxin (AF) biosynthesis, compared with the wild-type line, suggesting that the DmtA knock-out affected the transcriptional level of genes in the AF cluster. In particular, sclerotia development and host colonization were altered in the dmtA null mutants. Green fluorescent protein tagging at the C-terminus of DmtA showed that DmtA localized to the nucleus and cytoplasm. DNA methylation content measurements in the dmtA mutants revealed no widespread DNA methylation in the mutants or wild-type lines. Thus, our findings suggest that DmtA, apart from being a C-5 cytosine methyltransferase in A. flavus, contributes to asexual development, aflatoxin biosynthesis, sclerotial production and virulence.
Project description:Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the major crops susceptible to Aspergillus flavus infection and subsequent contamination with aflatoxins, the most potent naturally produced carcinogenic secondary metabolites. This pathogen can pose serious health concerns and cause severe economic losses due to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on permissible levels of aflatoxins in food and feed. Although biocontrol has yielded some successes in managing aflatoxin contamination, enhancing crop resistance is still the preferred choice of management for long-term sustainability. Hence, host induced gene silencing (HIGS) strategy was explored in this study. The A. flavus gene aflM encoding versicolorin dehydrogenase, a key enzyme involved in the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway, was selected as a possible target for suppression through HIGS. An RNAi vector containing a portion of the aflM gene was constructed and introduced into immature B104 maize zygotic embryos through Agrobacterium transformation. PCR analysis of the genomic DNA from T0 leaf tissue confirmed the presence of the transgene in six out of the seven events. The seeds from the lines that showed reduced aflatoxin production in laboratory aflatoxin kernel screening assay (KSA) have been increased from T1 to T4 generation in the past four years. Changes in aflatoxin resistance in these transgenic kernels have been evaluated under both field and laboratory conditions. The T2 generation kernels containing the transgene from two events out of four examined had less aflatoxin (P ? 0.01 and P ? 0.08) than those without the transgene. Field-inoculated homozygous T3 and T4 transgenic kernels also revealed lower levels of aflatoxins (P ? 0.04) than kernels from the null (segregated non-transgenic samples) or B104 controls. A similar result was observed when the harvested T3 and T4 homozygous transgenic kernels were evaluated under KSA conditions without inoculation (P ? 0.003-0.05). These two events were crossed with LH195, LH197, LH210, and PHW79 elite breeding lines and the resulting crosses supported less aflatoxin (P ? 0.02) than the crosses made with non-transgenic lines. In addition, significantly higher levels of aflM gene-specific small RNAs were detected in the transgenic leaf and kernel tissues, indicating that the enhanced aflatoxin resistance in the homozygous transgenic kernels is likely due to suppression of aflM expression through HIGS.
Project description:Peanuts are widely consumed in many local dishes in southeast Asian countries, especially in Malaysia which is one of the major peanut-importing countries in this region. Therefore, Aspergillus spp. and aflatoxin contamination in peanuts during storage are becoming major concerns due to the tropical weather in this region that favours the growth of aflatoxigenic fungi. The present study thus aimed to molecularly identify and characterise the Aspergillus section Flavi isolated from imported peanuts in Malaysia. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and ?-tubulin sequences were used to confirm the species and determine the phylogenetic relationship among the isolates, while aflatoxin biosynthesis genes (aflR, aflP (omtA), aflD (nor-1), aflM (ver-1), and pksA) were targeted in a multiplex PCR to determine the toxigenic potential. A total of 76 and one isolates were confirmed as A. flavus and A. tamarii, respectively. The Maximum Likelihood (ML) phylogenetic tree resolved the species into two different clades in which all A. flavus (both aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic) were grouped in the same clade and A. tamarii was grouped in a different clade. The aflatoxin biosynthesis genes were detected in all aflatoxigenic A. flavus while the non-aflatoxigenic A. flavus failed to amplify at least one of the genes. The results indicated that both aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic A. flavus could survive in imported peanuts and, thus, appropriate storage conditions preferably with low temperature should be considered to avoid the re-emergence of aflatoxigenic A. flavus and the subsequent aflatoxin production in peanuts during storage.
Project description:Nuclear protein LaeA is known as the global regulator of secondary metabolism in Aspergillus. LaeA connects with VeA and VelB to form a heterotrimeric complex, which coordinates fungal development and secondary metabolism. Here, we describe a new interaction partner of LaeA, the kinetochore protein Spc105, from the aflatoxin-producing fungus Aspergillus flavus. We showed that in addition to involvement in nuclear division, Spc105 is required for normal conidiophore development and sclerotia production of A. flavus. Moreover, Spc105 positively regulates the production of secondary metabolites such as aflatoxin and kojic acid, and negatively regulates the production of cyclopiazonic acid. Transcriptome analysis of the ?spc105 strain revealed that 23 backbone genes were differentially expressed, corresponding to 19 of the predicted 56 secondary metabolite gene clusters, suggesting a broad regulatory role of Spc105 in secondary metabolism. Notably, the reduced expression of laeA in our transcriptome data led to the discovery of the correlation between Spc105 and LaeA, and double mutant analysis indicated a functional interdependence between Spc105 and LaeA. Further, in vitro and in vivo protein interaction assays revealed that Spc105 interacts directly with the S-adenosylmethionine (SAM)-binding domain of LaeA, and that the leucine zipper motif in Spc105 is required for this interaction. The Spc105-LaeA interaction identified in our study indicates a cooperative interplay of distinct regulators in A. flavus, providing new insights into fungal secondary metabolism regulation networks.