Maize kernels are susceptible to infection by the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus flavus. Infection results in reduction of grain quality and contamination of kernels with the highly carcinogenic mycotoxin, aflatoxin. To understanding host response to infection by the fungus, transcription of approximately 9000 maize genes were monitored during the host-pathogen interaction with a custom designed Affymetrix GeneChip® DNA array. More than 4000 maize genes were found differentially expressed at a FDR of 0.05. This included the up regulation of defense related genes and signaling pathways. Transcriptional changes also were observed in primary metabolism genes. Starch biosynthetic genes were down regulated during infection, while genes encoding maize hydrolytic enzymes, presumably involved in the degradation of host reserves, were up regulated. These data indicate that infection of the maize kernel by A. flavus induced metabolic changes in the kernel, including the production of a defense response, as well as a disruption in kernel development.
Aspergillus flavus is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that infects maize kernels pre-harvest, creating major human health concerns and causing substantial agricultural losses. Improved control strategies are needed, yet progress is hampered by the limited understanding of the mechanisms of infection. A series of studies were designed to investigate the localization, morphology and transcriptional profile of A.?flavus during internal seed colonization. Results from these studies indicate that A.?flavus is capable of infecting all tissues of the immature kernel by 96?h after infection. Mycelia were observed in and around the point of inoculation in the endosperm and were found growing down to the germ. At the endosperm-germ interface, hyphae appeared to differentiate and form a biofilm-like structure that surrounded the germ. The exact nature of this structure remains unclear, but is discussed. A custom-designed A.?flavus?Affymetrix GeneChip® microarray was used to monitor genome-wide transcription during pathogenicity. A total of 5061 genes were designated as being differentially expressed. Genes encoding secreted enzymes, transcription factors and secondary metabolite gene clusters were up-regulated and considered to be potential effector molecules responsible for disease in the kernel. Information gained from this study will aid in the development of strategies aimed at preventing or slowing down A.?flavus colonization of the maize kernel.
Aspergillus flavus is a cosmopolitan fungus able to respond to external stimuli and to shift both its trophic behaviour and the production of secondary metabolites, including that of the carcinogen aflatoxin (AF). To better understand the adaptability of this fungus, we examined genetic and phenotypic responses within the fungus when grown under four conditions that mimic different ecological niches ranging from saprophytic growth to parasitism. Global transcription changes were observed in both primary and secondary metabolism in response to these conditions, particularly in secondary metabolism where transcription of nearly half of the predicted secondary metabolite clusters changed in response to the trophic states of the fungus. The greatest transcriptional change was found between saprophytic and parasitic growth, which resulted in expression changes in over 800 genes in A. flavus. The fungus also responded to growth conditions, putatively by adaptive changes in conidia, resulting in differences in their ability to utilize carbon sources. We also examined tolerance of A. flavus to oxidative stress and found that growth and secondary metabolism were altered in a superoxide dismutase (sod) mutant and an alkyl-hydroperoxide reductase (ahp) mutant of A. flavus. Data presented in this study show a multifaceted response of A. flavus to its environment and suggest that oxidative stress and secondary metabolism are important in the ecology of this fungus, notably in its interaction with host plant and in relation to changes in its lifestyle (i.e. saprobic to pathogenic).
Aspergillus flavus causes an ear rot of maize, often resulting in the production of aflatoxin, a potent liver toxin and carcinogen that impacts the health of humans and animals. Many aspects of kernel infection and aflatoxin biosynthesis have been studied but the precise effects of the kernel environment on A. flavus are poorly understood. The goal of this research was to study the fungal response to the kernel environment during colonization. Gene transcription in A. flavus was analyzed by microarrays after growth on kernels of the four developmental stages: blister (R2), milk (R3), dough (R4), and dent (R5). Five days after inoculation, total RNA was isolated from kernels and hybridized to Affymetrix Gene Chip arrays containing probes representing 12,834 A. flavus genes. Statistical comparisons of the expression profile data revealed significant differences that included unique sets of upregulated genes in each kernel stage and six patterns of expression over the four stages. Among the genes expressed in colonized dent kernels were a phytase gene and six putative genes involved in zinc acquisition. Disruption of the phytase gene phy1 resulted in reduced growth on medium containing phytate as the sole source of phosphate. Furthermore, growth of the mutant (?phy1) was 20% of the wild-type strain when wound inoculated into maize ears. In contrast, no difference was detected in the amount of aflatoxin produced relative to fungal growth, indicating that phy1 does not affect aflatoxin production. The study revealed the genome-wide effects of immature maize kernels on A. flavus and suggest that phytase has a role in pathogenesis.
This qualitative study presents a literature review, methodology, findings and discussion from a sample of 20 health care professional around their experiences of sources and definitions of spiritual reflection. The sample includes nursing, social work, occupational therapy, medicine, physiotherapy, music therapy, psychology and recreational therapy. Major sources are music, poetry, stories and sacred texts. Definitions are meaning making and encountering the divine along with personal reflection on values and assumptions. Limitations of the research and recommendations for education, practice and future research are also presented.
Species of Aspergillus produce a diverse array of secondary metabolites, and recent genomic analysis has predicted that these species have the capacity to synthesize many more compounds. It has been possible to infer the presence of 55 gene clusters associated with secondary metabolism in Aspergillus flavus; however, only three metabolic pathways-aflatoxin, cyclopiazonic acid (CPA) and aflatrem-have been assigned to these clusters. To gain an insight into the regulation of and to infer the ecological significance of the 55 secondary metabolite gene clusters predicted in A. flavus, we examined their expression over 28 diverse conditions. Variables included culture medium and temperature, fungal development, colonization of developing maize seeds and misexpression of laeA, a global regulator of secondary metabolism. Hierarchical clustering analysis of expression profiles allowed us to categorize the gene clusters into four distinct clades. Gene clusters for the production of aflatoxins, CPA and seven other unknown compound(s) were identified as belonging to one clade. To further explore the relationships found by gene expression analysis, aflatoxin and CPA production were quantified under five different cell culture environments known to be conducive or nonconducive for aflatoxin biosynthesis and during the colonization of developing maize seeds. Results from these studies showed that secondary metabolism gene clusters have distinctive gene expression profiles. Aflatoxin and CPA were found to have unique regulation, but are sufficiently similar that they would be expected to co-occur in substrates colonized with A. flavus.
Identification of proteins from proteolytic peptides or intact proteins plays an essential role in proteomics. Researchers use search engines to match the acquired peptide sequences to the target proteins. However, search engines depend on protein databases to provide candidates for consideration. Alternative splicing (AS), the mechanism where the exon of pre-mRNAs can be spliced and rearranged to generate distinct mRNA and therefore protein variants, enable higher eukaryotic organisms, with only a limited number of genes, to have the requisite complexity and diversity at the proteome level. Multiple alternative isoforms from one gene often share common segments of sequences. However, many protein databases only include a limited number of isoforms to keep minimal redundancy. As a result, the database search might not identify a target protein even with high quality tandem MS data and accurate intact precursor ion mass. We computationally predicted an exhaustive list of putative isoforms of Aspergillus flavus proteins from 20 371 expressed sequence tags to investigate whether an alternative splicing protein database can assign a greater proportion of mass spectrometry data. The newly constructed AS database provided 9807 new alternatively spliced variants in addition to 12 832 previously annotated proteins. The searches of the existing tandem MS spectra data set using the AS database identified 29 new proteins encoded by 26 genes. Nine fungal genes appeared to have multiple protein isoforms. In addition to the discovery of splice variants, AS database also showed potential to improve genome annotation. In summary, the introduction of an alternative splicing database helps identify more proteins and unveils more information about a proteome.
Aflatrem is a potent tremorgenic toxin produced by the soil fungus Aspergillus flavus, and a member of a structurally diverse group of fungal secondary metabolites known as indole-diterpenes. Gene clusters for indole-diterpene biosynthesis have recently been described in several species of filamentous fungi. A search of Aspergillus complete genome sequence data identified putative aflatrem gene clusters in the genomes of A. flavus and Aspergillus oryzae. In both species the genes for aflatrem biosynthesis cluster at two discrete loci; the first, ATM1, is telomere proximal on chromosome 5 and contains a cluster of three genes, atmG, atmC, and atmM, and the second, ATM2, is telomere distal on chromosome 7 and contains five genes, atmD, atmQ, atmB, atmA, and atmP. Reverse transcriptase PCR in A. flavus demonstrated that aflatrem biosynthesis transcript levels increased with the onset of aflatrem production. Transfer of atmP and atmQ into Penicillium paxilli paxP and paxQ deletion mutants, known to accumulate paxilline intermediates paspaline and 13-desoxypaxilline, respectively, showed that AtmP is a functional homolog of PaxP and that AtmQ utilizes 13-desoxypaxilline as a substrate to synthesize aflatrem pathway-specific intermediates, paspalicine and paspalinine. We propose a scheme for aflatrem biosynthesis in A. flavus based on these reconstitution experiments in P. paxilli and identification of putative intermediates in wild-type cultures of A. flavus.
Aflatoxins are notorious toxic secondary metabolites known for their impacts on human and animal health, and their effects on the marketability of key grain and nut crops. Understanding aflatoxin biosynthesis is the focus of a large and diverse research community. Concerted efforts by this community have led not only to a well-characterized biosynthetic pathway, but also to the discovery of novel regulatory mechanisms. Common to secondary metabolism is the clustering of biosynthetic genes and their regulation by pathway specific as well as global regulators. Recent data show that arrangement of secondary metabolite genes in clusters may allow for an important global regulation of secondary metabolism based on physical location along the chromosome. Available genomic and proteomic tools are now allowing us to examine aflatoxin biosynthesis more broadly and to put its regulation in context with fungal development and fungal ecology. This review covers our current understanding of the biosynthesis and regulation of aflatoxin and highlights new and emerging information garnered from structural and functional genomics. The focus of this review will be on studies in Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, the two agronomically important species that produce aflatoxin. Also covered will be the important contributions gained by studies on production of the aflatoxin precursor sterigmatocystin in Aspergillus nidulans.
Aspergillus flavus is a common saprophyte and opportunistic pathogen that produces numerous secondary metabolites. The primary objectives of the A. flavus genomics program are to reduce and eliminate aflatoxin contamination in food and feed and to discover genetic factors that contribute to plant and animal pathogenicity. A. flavus expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and whole-genome sequencing have been completed. Annotation of the A. flavus genome has revealed numerous genes and gene clusters that are potentially involved in the formation of aflatoxin and other secondary metabolites, as well as in the degradation of complex carbohydrate polymers. Analysis of putative secondary metabolism pathways might facilitate the discovery of new compounds with pharmaceutical properties, as well as new enzymes for biomass degradation.
The genera Aspergillus and Penicillium include some of the most beneficial as well as the most harmful fungal species such as the penicillin-producer Penicillium chrysogenum and the human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus, respectively. Their mitochondrial genomic sequences may hold vital clues into the mechanisms of their evolution, population genetics, and biology, yet only a handful of these genomes have been fully sequenced and annotated.
In filamentous fungi, peroxisomes are crucial for the primary metabolism and play a pivotal role in the formation of some secondary metabolites. Further, peroxisomes are important site for fatty acids ?-oxidation, the formation of reactive oxygen species and for their scavenging through a complex of antioxidant activities. Oxidative stress is involved in different metabolic events in all organisms and it occurs during oxidative processes within the cell, including peroxisomal ?-oxidation of fatty acids. In Aspergillus flavus, an unbalance towards an hyper-oxidant status into the cell is a prerequisite for the onset of aflatoxin biosynthesis. In our preliminary results, the use of bezafibrate, inducer of both peroxisomal ?-oxidation and peroxisome proliferation in mammals, significantly enhanced the expression of pex11 and foxA and stimulated aflatoxin synthesis in A. flavus. This suggests the existence of a correlation among peroxisome proliferation, fatty acids ?-oxidation and aflatoxin biosynthesis. To investigate this correlation, A. flavus was transformed with a vector containing P33, a gene from Cymbidium ringspot virus able to induce peroxisome proliferation, under the control of the promoter of the Cu,Zn-sod gene of A. flavus. This transcriptional control closely relates the onset of the antioxidant response to ROS increase, with the proliferation of peroxisomes in A. flavus. The AfP33 transformant strain show an up-regulation of lipid metabolism and an higher content of both intracellular ROS and some oxylipins. The combined presence of a higher amount of substrates (fatty acids-derived), an hyper-oxidant cell environment and of hormone-like signals (oxylipins) enhances the synthesis of aflatoxins in the AfP33 strain. The results obtained demonstrated a close link between peroxisome metabolism and aflatoxin synthesis.
This is an ethnographic study exploring the role of emotion, images, and sacred texts in the spiritual reflection of non-chaplaincy health care professionals who offer spiritual care to their patients. Purposeful sampling of 20 health care professionals was employed. These non-chaplaincy professionals were interviewed and the researchers also kept field notes on the cultures in which they worked. Both interviews and field notes were transcribed and analyzed using the constant comparative method of data analysis. Findings indicate that emotion and images are the main doors that these professionals use to reflect spiritually on their practice of spiritual care. Sacred texts are the third door. Outcomes of the use of feelings and emotions in spiritual reflection are a deeper sense of peace, grounding and letting go, that is, transformation. Recommendations for collaboration with chaplains and further research are offered.
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