The PR-toxin is a potent mycotoxin produced by Penicillium roqueforti in moulded grains and grass silages and may contaminate blue-veined cheese. The PR-toxin derives from the 15 carbon atoms sesquiterpene aristolochene formed by the aristolochene synthase (encoded by ari1). We have cloned and sequenced a four gene cluster that includes the ari1 gene from P. roqueforti. Gene silencing of each of the four genes (named prx1 to prx4) resulted in a reduction of 65-75% in the production of PR-toxin indicating that the four genes encode enzymes involved in PR-toxin biosynthesis. Interestingly the four silenced mutants overproduce large amounts of mycophenolic acid, an antitumor compound formed by an unrelated pathway suggesting a cross-talk of PR-toxin and mycophenolic acid production. An eleven gene cluster that includes the above mentioned four prx genes and a 14-TMS drug/H(+) antiporter was found in the genome of Penicillium chrysogenum. This eleven gene cluster has been reported to be very poorly expressed in a transcriptomic study of P. chrysogenum genes under conditions of penicillin production (strongly aerated cultures). We found that this apparently silent gene cluster is able to produce PR-toxin in P. chrysogenum under static culture conditions on hydrated rice medium. Noteworthily, the production of PR-toxin was 2.6-fold higher in P. chrysogenum npe10, a strain deleted in the 56.8kb amplifiable region containing the pen gene cluster, than in the parental strain Wisconsin 54-1255 providing another example of cross-talk between secondary metabolite pathways in this fungus. A detailed PR-toxin biosynthesis pathway is proposed based on all available evidence.
Peroxisomes are eukaryotic organelles surrounded by a single bilayer membrane, containing a variety of proteins depending on the organism; they mainly perform degradation reactions of toxic metabolites (detoxification), catabolism of linear and branched-chain fatty acids, and removal of H(2)O(2) (formed in some oxidative processes) by catalase. Proteins named peroxins are involved in recruiting, transporting, and introducing the peroxisomal matrix proteins into the peroxisomes. The matrix proteins contain the peroxisomal targeting signals PTS1 and/or PTS2 that are recognized by the peroxins Pex5 and Pex7, respectively. Initial evidence indicated that the penicillin biosynthetic enzyme isopenicillin N acyltransferase (IAT) of Penicillium chrysogenum is located inside peroxisomes. There is now solid evidence (based on electron microscopy and/or biochemical data) confirming that IAT and the phenylacetic acid- and fatty acid-activating enzymes are also located in peroxisomes. Similarly, the Acremonium chrysogenum CefD1 and CefD2 proteins that perform the central reactions (activation and epimerization of isopenicillin N) of the cephalosporin pathway are targeted to peroxisomes. Growing evidence supports the conclusion that some enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of mycotoxins (e.g., AK-toxin), and the biosynthesis of signaling molecules in plants (e.g., jasmonic acid or auxins) occur in peroxisomes. The high concentration of substrates (in many cases toxic to the cytoplasm) and enzymes inside the peroxisomes allows efficient synthesis of metabolites with interesting biological or pharmacological activities. This compartmentalization poses additional challenges to the cell due to the need to import the substrates into the peroxisomes and to export the final products; the transporters involved in these processes are still very poorly known. This article focuses on new aspects of the metabolic processes occurring in peroxisomes, namely the degradation and detoxification processes that lead to the biosynthesis and secretion of secondary metabolites.
A single gene cluster of Penicillium chrysogenum contains genes involved in the biosynthesis and secretion of the mycotoxins roquefortine C and meleagrin. Five of these genes have been silenced by RNAi. Pc21g15480 (rds) encodes a nonribosomal cyclodipeptide synthetase for the biosynthesis of both roquefortine C and meleagrin. Pc21g15430 (rpt) encodes a prenyltransferase also required for the biosynthesis of both mycotoxins. Silencing of Pc21g15460 or Pc21g15470 led to a decrease in roquefortine C and meleagrin, whereas silencing of the methyltransferase gene (Pc21g15440; gmt) resulted in accumulation of glandicolin B, indicating that this enzyme catalyzes the conversion of glandicolin B to meleagrin. All these genes are transcriptionally coregulated. Our results prove that roquefortine C and meleagrin derive from a single pathway.
Filamentous fungi produce an impressive variety of secondary metabolites; many of them have important biological activities. The biosynthesis of these secondary metabolites is frequently induced by plant-derived external elicitors and appears to also be regulated by internal inducers, which may work in a way similar to that of bacterial autoinducers. The biosynthesis of penicillin in Penicillium chrysogenum is an excellent model for studying the molecular mechanisms of control of gene expression due to a good knowledge of the biochemistry and molecular genetics of ?-lactam antibiotics and to the availability of its genome sequence and proteome. In this work, we first developed a plate bioassay that allows direct testing of inducers of penicillin biosynthesis using single colonies of P. chrysogenum. Using this bioassay, we have found an inducer substance in the conditioned culture broths of P. chrysogenum and Acremonium chrysogenum. No inducing effect was exerted by ?-butyrolactones, jasmonic acid, or the penicillin precursor ?-(L-?-aminoadipyl)-L-cysteinyl-D-valine. The conditioned broth induced penicillin biosynthesis and transcription of the pcbAB, pcbC, and penDE genes when added at inoculation time, but its effect was smaller if added at 12 h and it had no effect when added at 24 h, as shown by Northern analysis and lacZ reporter studies. The inducer molecule was purified and identified by mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) as 1,3-diaminopropane. Addition of pure 1,3-diaminopropane stimulated the production of penicillin by about 100% compared to results for the control cultures. Genes for the biosynthesis of 1,3-diaminopropane have been identified in the P. chrysogenum genome.
A protocol for preparative isopenicillin N (IPN) purification, a highly interesting and hitherto unavailable intermediate of the penicillin and cephalosporin biosynthetic pathway due to its high unstability, is described. Culture broths of Acremonium chrysogenum TD189, a strain blocked in cephalosporin biosynthesis that accumulates this metabolite, were treated with acetone and filtered though charcoal and a hydrophobic resin in a single step as tandem columns. The cleared broth was then lyophilized and passed though a Sephadex G-25 column. The last step was the purification to homogeneity of IPN in a semipreparative HPLC equipment and, optionally, a desalting step by Sephadex G-10 column. Once purified, a complete analysis of the stability of the compound and the conditions for its long-term storage was carried out. Our results suggest a first-order model for IPN decomposition for all the pH and temperature analyzed. IPN is more stable at neutral pH, and once lyophilized, can be stored under vacuum and -75?° C with a half-life of 770 days.
A halotolerant phenylacetate-degrading fungus Penicillium CLONA2, previously isolated from a salt mine at Algarve (Portugal), was identified as a variant of P. chrysogenum using the ITS-5,8S rDNA and the D1/D2 domain of 28S rDNA sequences. The metabolic features and genetic characteristics suggest that this strain belongs to a subgroup of P. chrysogenum, named var. halophenolicum. The presence of the penicillin biosynthetic cluster was proven by Southern hybridizations using probes internal to the pcbAB and penDE genes and sequencing of the pcbAB-pcbC intergenic region. However the pcbAB-pcbC divergent promoter region contained 20 point modifications with respect to that of the wild type P. chrysogenum NRRL1951. The CLONA2 strain produced non-aromatic natural penicillins rather than benzylpenicillin in a medium containing potassium phenylacetate (the precursor of benzylpenicillin) and was able to grow well on phenylacetatic acid using it as sole carbon source. Due to the ability of P. chrysogenum CLONA2 to degrade aromatic compounds, this strain may be an interesting organism for aromatic compounds remediation in high salinity environments.
The mechanisms of compartmentalization of intermediates and secretion of penicillins and cephalosporins in ?-lactam antibiotic-producing fungi are of great interest. In Acremonium chrysogenum, there is a compartmentalization of the central steps of the CPC (cephalosporin C) biosynthetic pathway. In the present study, we found in the early CPC cluster a new gene named cefP encoding a putative transmembrane protein containing 11 transmembrane spanner. Targeted inactivation of cefP by gene replacement showed that it is essential for CPC biosynthesis. The disrupted mutant is unable to synthesize cephalosporins and secretes a significant amount of IPN (isopenicillin N), indicating that the mutant is blocked in the conversion of IPN into PenN (penicillin N). The production of cephalosporin in the disrupted mutant was restored by transformation with both cefP and cefR (a regulatory gene located upstream of cefP), but not with cefP alone. Fluorescence microscopy studies with an EGFP (enhanced green fluorescent protein)-SKL (Ser-Lys-Leu) protein (a peroxisomal-targeted marker) as a control showed that the red-fluorescence-labelled CefP protein co-localized in the peroxisomes with the control peroxisomal protein. In summary, CefP is a peroxisomal membrane protein probably involved in the import of IPN into the peroxisomes where it is converted into PenN by the two-component CefD1/CefD2 protein system.
The lysine biosynthetic pathway has to supply large amounts of alpha-aminoadipic acid for penicillin biosynthesis in Penicillium chrysogenum. In this study, we have characterized the P. chrysogenum L2 mutant, a lysine auxotroph that shows highly increased expression of several lysine biosynthesis genes (lys1, lys2, lys3, lys7). The L2 mutant was found to be deficient in homoaconitase activity since it was complemented by the Aspergillus nidulans lysF gene. We have cloned a gene (named lys3) that complements the L2 mutation by transformation with a P. chrysogenum genomic library, constructed in an autonomous replicating plasmid. The lys3-encoded protein showed high identity to homoaconitases. In addition, we cloned the mutant lys3 allele from the L2 strain that showed a G(1534) to A(1534) point mutation resulting in a Gly(495) to Asp(495) substitution. This mutation is located in a highly conserved region adjacent to two of the three cysteine residues that act as ligands to bind the iron-sulfur cluster required for homoaconitase activity. The L2 mutant accumulates homocitrate. Deletion of the lys1 gene (homocitrate synthase) in the L2 strain prevented homocitrate accumulation and reverted expression levels of the four lysine biosynthesis genes tested to those of the parental prototrophic strain. Homocitrate accumulation seems to act as a sensor of lysine-pathway distress, triggering overexpression of four of the lysine biosynthesis genes.
Penicillins and cephalosporins are ?-lactam antibiotics widely used in human medicine. The biosynthesis of these compounds starts by the condensation of the amino acids L-?-aminoadipic acid, L-cysteine and L-valine to form the tripeptide ?-L-?-aminoadipyl-l-cysteinyl-D-valine catalysed by the non-ribosomal peptide ACV synthetase. Subsequently, this tripeptide is cyclized to isopenicillin N that in Penicillium is converted to hydrophobic penicillins, e.g. benzylpenicillin. In Acremonium and in streptomycetes, isopenicillin N is later isomerized to penicillin N and finally converted to cephalosporin. Expression of genes of the penicillin (pcbAB, pcbC, pendDE) and cephalosporin clusters (pcbAB, pcbC, cefD1, cefD2, cefEF, cefG) is controlled by pleitropic regulators including LaeA, a methylase involved in heterochromatin rearrangement. The enzymes catalysing the last two steps of penicillin biosynthesis (phenylacetyl-CoA ligase and isopenicillin N acyltransferase) are located in microbodies, as shown by immunoelectron microscopy and microbodies proteome analyses. Similarly, the Acremonium two-component CefD1-CefD2 epimerization system is also located in microbodies. This compartmentalization implies intracellular transport of isopenicillin N (in the penicillin pathway) or isopenicillin N and penicillin N in the cephalosporin route. Two transporters of the MFS family cefT and cefM are involved in transport of intermediates and/or secretion of cephalosporins. However, there is no known transporter of benzylpenicillin despite its large production in industrial strains.
Penicillium chrysogenum converts isopenicillin N (IPN) into hydrophobic penicillins by means of the peroxisomal IPN acyltransferase (IAT), which is encoded by the penDE gene. In silico analysis of the P. chrysogenum genome revealed the presence of a gene, Pc13g09140, initially described as paralogue of the IAT-encoding penDE gene. We have termed this gene ial because it encodes a protein with high similarity to IAT (IAL for IAT-Like). We have conducted an investigation to characterize the ial gene and to determine the role of the IAL protein in the penicillin biosynthetic pathway.
The biosynthesis of the beta-lactam antibiotic penicillin is an excellent model for the study of secondary metabolites produced by filamentous fungi due to the good background knowledge on the biochemistry and molecular genetics of the beta-lactam producing microorganisms. The three genes (pcbAB, pcbC, penDE) encoding enzymes of the penicillin pathway in Penicillium chrysogenum are clustered, but no penicillin pathway-specific regulators have been found in the genome region that contains the penicillin gene cluster. The biosynthesis of this beta-lactam is controlled by global regulators of secondary metabolism rather than by a pathway-specific regulator. In this work we have identified the gene encoding the secondary metabolism global regulator LaeA in P. chrysogenum (PcLaeA), a nuclear protein with a methyltransferase domain. The PclaeA gene is present as a single copy in the genome of low and high-penicillin producing strains and is not located in the 56.8-kb amplified region occurring in high-penicillin producing strains. Overexpression of the PclaeA gene gave rise to a 25% increase in penicillin production. PclaeA knock-down mutants exhibited drastically reduced levels of penicillin gene expression and antibiotic production and showed pigmentation and sporulation defects, but the levels of roquefortine C produced and the expression of the dmaW involved in roquefortine biosynthesis remained similar to those observed in the wild-type parental strain. The lack of effect on the synthesis of roquefortine is probably related to the chromatin arrangement in the low expression roquefortine promoters as compared to the bidirectional pbcAB-pcbC promoter region involved in penicillin biosynthesis. These results evidence that PcLaeA not only controls some secondary metabolism gene clusters, but also asexual differentiation in P. chrysogenum.
The cluster of early cephalosporin biosynthesis genes (pcbAB, pcbC, cefD1, cefD2 and cefT of Acremonium chrysogenum) contains all of the genes required for the biosynthesis of the cephalosporin biosynthetic pathway intermediate penicillin N. Downstream of the cefD1 gene, there is an unassigned open reading frame named cefM encoding a protein of the MFS (major facilitator superfamily) with 12 transmembrane domains, different from the previously reported cefT. Targeted inactivation of cefM by gene replacement showed that it is essential for cephalosporin biosynthesis. The disrupted mutant accumulates a significant amount of penicillin N, is unable to synthesize deacetoxy-, deacetyl-cephalosporin C and cephalosporin C and shows impaired differentiation into arthrospores. Complementation of the disrupted mutant with the cefM gene restored the intracellular penicillin N concentration to normal levels and allowed synthesis and secretion of the cephalosporin intermediates and cephalosporin C. A fused cefM-gfp gene complemented the cefM-disrupted mutant, and the CefM-GFP (green fluorescent protein) fusion was targeted to intracellular microbodies that were abundant after 72 h of culture in the differentiating hyphae and in the arthrospore chains, coinciding with the phase of intense cephalosporin biosynthesis. Since the dual-component enzyme system CefD1-CefD2 that converts isopenicillin N into penicillin N contains peroxisomal targeting sequences, it is probable that the epimerization step takes place in the peroxisome matrix. The CefM protein seems to be involved in the translocation of penicillin N from the peroxisome (or peroxisome-like microbodies) lumen to the cytosol, where it is converted into cephalosporin C.
We described previously that an autoinducer molecule, identified as 1,3-diaminopropane (1,3-DAP), is secreted by Penicillium chrysogenum and Acremonium chrysogenum. Using pH-controlled fermentor cultures we have observed in this work that 1,3-DAP and spermidine clearly stimulate the biosynthesis of benzylpenicillin in P. chrysogenum, both in defined and in complex penicillin production media. Both 1,3-DAP and spermidine, but not putrescine (1,4-diaminobutane), produce a drastic increase in the transcript levels of the penicillin biosynthetic genes pcbAB, pcbC and penDE. These polyamines do not affect the expression of the global pH-stress regulator pacC gene, thus excluding that the effect of 1,3-DAP and spermidine is due to a modification of the pH control mechanism. Expression of the three penicillin biosynthetic genes is drastically reduced in a laeA-knock-down mutant of P. chrysogenum, which produces very low levels of benzylpenicillin. Interestingly, 1,3-DAP and spermidine revert the effect of the laeA knock-down mutation, completely restoring the levels of penicillin production. Furthermore, 1,3-DAP and spermidine enhanced the expression of laeA in the parental strain and restored the levels of laeA transcripts in the laeA knock-down mutant. Taken together these results indicate that the stimulatory effect of the inducer molecules 1,3-DAP and spermidine is exerted, at least in part, through the stimulation of the expression of laeA, a global regulator that acts epigenetically on the expression of secondary metabolite genes by heterochromatin reorganization.
Penicillium chrysogenum, an industrial microorganism used worldwide for penicillin production, is an excellent model to study the biochemistry and the cell biology of enzymes involved in the synthesis of secondary metabolites. The well-known peroxisomal location of the last two steps of penicillin biosynthesis (phenylacetyl-CoA ligase and isopenicillin N acyltransferase) requires the import into the peroxisomes of the intermediate isopenicillin N and the precursors phenylacetic acid and coenzyme A. The mechanisms for the molecular transport of these precursors are still poorly understood. In this work, a search was made, in the genome of P. chrysogenum, in order to find a Major Facilitator Superfamily (MFS) membrane protein homologous to CefT of Acremonium chrysogenum, which is known to confer resistance to phenylacetic acid. The paaT gene was found to encode a MFS membrane protein containing 12 transmembrane spanners and one Pex19p-binding domain for Pex19-mediated targeting to peroxisomal membranes. RNA interference-mediated silencing of the paaT gene caused a clear reduction of benzylpenicillin secretion and increased the sensitivity of P. chrysogenum to the penicillin precursor phenylacetic acid. The opposite behavior was found when paaT was overexpressed from the glutamate dehydrogenase promoter that increases phenylacetic acid resistance and penicillin production. Localization studies by fluorescent laser scanning microscopy using PaaT-DsRed and EGFP-SKL fluorescent fusion proteins clearly showed that the protein was located in the peroxisomal membrane. The results suggested that PaaT is involved in penicillin production, most likely through the translocation of side-chain precursors (phenylacetic acid and phenoxyacetic acid) from the cytosol to the peroxisomal lumen across the peroxisomal membrane of P. chrysogenum.
Penicillin biosynthesis is subjected to a complex regulatory network of signalling molecules that may serve as model for other secondary metabolites. The information provided by the new "omics" era about Penicillium chrysogenum and the advances in the knowledge of molecular mechanisms responsible for improved productivity, make this fungus an excellent model to decipher the mechanisms controlling the penicillin biosynthetic pathway. In this work, we have characterized a novel transcription factor PcRFX1, which is an ortholog of the Acremonium chrysogenum CPCR1 and Penicillium marneffei RfxA regulatory proteins. PcRFX1 DNA binding sequences were found in the promoter region of the pcbAB, pcbC and penDE genes. We show in this article that these motifs control the expression of the ?-galactosidase lacZ reporter gene, indicating that they may direct the PcRFX1-mediated regulation of the penicillin biosynthetic genes. By means of Pcrfx1 gene knock-down and overexpression techniques we confirmed that PcRFX1 controls penicillin biosynthesis through the regulation of the pcbAB, pcbC and penDE transcription. Morphology and development seemed not to be controlled by this transcription factor under the conditions studied and only sporulation was slightly reduced after the silencing of the Pcrfx1 gene. A genome-wide analysis of processes putatively regulated by this transcription factor was carried out in P. chrysogenum. Results suggested that PcRFX1, in addition to regulate penicillin biosynthesis, is also involved in the control of several pathways of primary metabolism.
The knowledge about enzymes compartmentalization and transport processes involved in the penicillin biosynthesis in Penicillium chrysogenum is very limited. The genome of this fungus contains multiple genes encoding transporter proteins, but very little is known about them. A bioinformatic search was made to find major facilitator supefamily (MFS) membrane proteins related to CefP transporter protein involved in the entry of isopenicillin N to the peroxisome in Acremonium chrysogenum. No strict homologue of CefP was observed in P. chrysogenum, but the penV gene was found to encode a membrane protein that contained 10 clear transmembrane spanners and two other motifs COG5594 and DUF221, typical of membrane proteins. RNAi-mediated silencing of penV gene provoked a drastic reduction of the production of the ?-(L-?-aminoadipyl-L-cysteinyl-D-valine) (ACV) and isopenicillin N intermediates and the final product of the pathway. RT-PCR and northern blot analyses confirmed a reduction in the expression levels of the pcbC and penDE biosynthetic genes, whereas that of the pcbAB gene increased. Localization studies by fluorescent laser scanning microscopy using Dsred and GFP fluorescent fusion proteins and the FM 4-64 fluorescent dye showed clearly that the protein was located in the vacuolar membrane. These results indicate that PenV participates in the first stage of the beta-lactam biosynthesis (i.e., the formation of the ACV tripeptide), probably taking part in the supply of amino acids from the vacuolar lumen to the vacuole-anchored ACV synthetase. This is in agreement with several reports on the localization of the ACV synthetase and provides increased evidence for a compartmentalized storage of precursor amino acids for non-ribosomal peptides. PenV is the first MFS transporter of P. chrysogenum linked to the beta-lactam biosynthesis that has been located in the vacuolar membrane.
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