The Aspergillus fumigatus sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP) SrbA belongs to the basic Helix-Loop-Helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors and is crucial for antifungal drug resistance and virulence. The latter phenotype is especially striking, as loss of SrbA results in complete loss of virulence in murine models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA). How fungal SREBPs mediate fungal virulence is unknown, though it has been suggested that lack of growth in hypoxic conditions accounts for the attenuated virulence. To further understand the role of SrbA in fungal infection site pathobiology, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) was used to identify genes under direct SrbA transcriptional regulation in hypoxia. These results confirmed the direct regulation of ergosterol biosynthesis and iron uptake by SrbA in hypoxia and revealed new roles for SrbA in nitrate assimilation and heme biosynthesis. Moreover, functional characterization of an SrbA target gene with sequence similarity to SrbA identified a new transcriptional regulator of the fungal hypoxia response and virulence, SrbB. SrbB co-regulates genes involved in heme biosynthesis and demethylation of C4-sterols with SrbA in hypoxic conditions. However, SrbB also has regulatory functions independent of SrbA including regulation of carbohydrate metabolism. Loss of SrbB markedly attenuates A. fumigatus virulence, and loss of both SREBPs further reduces in vivo fungal growth. These data suggest that both A. fumigatus SREBPs are critical for hypoxia adaptation and virulence and reveal new insights into SREBPs' complex role in infection site adaptation and fungal virulence.
Fumagillin (1), a meroterpenoid from Aspergillus fumigatus, is known for its antiangiogenic activity due to binding to human methionine aminopeptidase 2. 1 has a highly oxygenated structure containing a penta-substituted cyclohexane that is generated by oxidative cleavage of the bicyclic sesquiterpene ?-trans-bergamotene. The chemical nature, order, and biochemical mechanism of all the oxygenative tailoring reactions has remained enigmatic despite the identification of the biosynthetic gene cluster and the use of targeted-gene deletion experiments. Here, we report the identification and characterization of three oxygenases from the fumagillin biosynthetic pathway, including a multifunctional cytochrome P450 monooxygenase, a hydroxylating nonheme-iron-dependent dioxygenase, and an ABM family monooxygenase for oxidative cleavage of the polyketide moiety. Most significantly, the P450 monooxygenase is shown to catalyze successive hydroxylation, bicyclic ring-opening, and two epoxidations that generate the sesquiterpenoid core skeleton of 1. We also characterized a truncated polyketide synthase with a ketoreductase function that controls the configuration at C-5 of hydroxylated intermediates.
Fumagillin 1 is a meroterpenoid from Aspergillus fumigatus that is known for its anti-angiogenic activity by binding to human methionine aminopeptidase 2. The genetic and molecular basis for biosynthesis of 1 had been an enigma despite the availability of the A. fumigatus genome sequence. Here, we report the identification and verification of the fma gene cluster, followed by characterization of the polyketide synthase and acyltransferase involved in biosynthesis of the dioic acid portion of 1. More significantly, we uncovered the elusive ?-trans-bergamotene synthase in A. fumigatus as a membrane-bound terpene cyclase.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the causative agent of invasive aspergillosis, leading to infection-related mortality in immunocompromised patients. We previously showed that the conserved and unique-to-fungi veA gene affects different cell processes such as morphological development, gliotoxin biosynthesis and protease activity, suggesting a global regulatory effect on the genome of this medically relevant fungus. In this study, RNA sequencing analysis revealed that veA controls the expression of hundreds of genes in A. fumigatus, including those comprising more than a dozen known secondary metabolite gene clusters. Chemical analysis confirmed that veA controls the synthesis of other secondary metabolites in this organism in addition to gliotoxin. Among the secondary metabolite gene clusters regulated by veA is the elusive but recently identified gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of fumagillin, a meroterpenoid known for its anti-angiogenic activity by binding to human methionine aminopeptidase 2. The fumagillin gene cluster contains a veA-dependent regulatory gene, fumR (Afu8g00420), encoding a putative C6 type transcription factor. Deletion of fumR results in silencing of the gene cluster and elimination of fumagillin biosynthesis. We found expression of fumR to also be dependent on laeA, a gene encoding another component of the fungal velvet complex. The results in this study argue that veA is a global regulator of secondary metabolism in A. fumigatus, and that veA may be a conduit via which chemical development is coupled to morphological development and other cellular processes.
Secondary metabolism in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans is controlled by the conserved global regulator VeA, which also governs morphological differentiation. Among the secondary metabolites regulated by VeA is the mycotoxin sterigmatocystin (ST). The presence of VeA is necessary for the biosynthesis of this carcinogenic compound. We identified a revertant mutant able to synthesize ST intermediates in the absence of VeA. The point mutation occurred at the coding region of a gene encoding a novel putative C2H2 zinc finger domain transcription factor that we denominated mtfA. The A. nidulans mtfA gene product localizes at nuclei independently of the illumination regime. Deletion of the mtfA gene restores mycotoxin biosynthesis in the absence of veA, but drastically reduced mycotoxin production when mtfA gene expression was altered, by deletion or overexpression, in A. nidulans strains with a veA wild-type allele. Our study revealed that mtfA regulates ST production by affecting the expression of the specific ST gene cluster activator aflR. Importantly, mtfA is also a regulator of other secondary metabolism gene clusters, such as genes responsible for the synthesis of terrequinone and penicillin. As in the case of ST, deletion or overexpression of mtfA was also detrimental for the expression of terrequinone genes. Deletion of mtfA also decreased the expression of the genes in the penicillin gene cluster, reducing penicillin production. However, in this case, over-expression of mtfA enhanced the transcription of penicillin genes, increasing penicillin production more than 5 fold with respect to the control. Importantly, in addition to its effect on secondary metabolism, mtfA also affects asexual and sexual development in A. nidulans. Deletion of mtfA results in a reduction of conidiation and sexual stage. We found mtfA putative orthologs conserved in other fungal species.
Potassium, a widely accepted macronutrient, is vital for many physiological processes such as regulation of cell volume, maintenance of intracellular pH, synthesis of proteins and activation of enzymes in filamentous fungi. Another cation, calcium, plays an essential role in many signaling processes from lower to higher eukaryotes. Imbalance in the intracellular ionic levels of potassium or calcium causes adverse effects on cell growth, morphology and development, and eventually death. Previous studies on the adaptation of Aspergillus nidulans to salt and osmotic stress conditions have revealed the role of SltA, a C?H? zinc finger transcription factor in cation homeostasis. SltA is highly conserved in the Ascomycota phylum with no identifiable homolog in S. cerevisiae and other yeast-like fungi, and prevents toxicity by the cations Na?, K?, Li?, Cs? and Mg²?, but not by Ca²?. However its role in morphology and biosynthesis of natural products such as mycotoxins remained unknown. This study shows the first characterization of the role of calcium and SltA fungal homologs in morphogenesis using the model system A. nidulans. Addition of potassium to sltA deletion mutants resulted in decreased levels of sterigmatocystin production. A similar phenotype was observed for both types of mutants in veA1 and veA? genetic background. Expression of the sterigmatocystin genes aflR and stcU was strongly reduced in sltA deletion mutant when K? was added. Additionally, increased concentrations of K? drastically reduced sexual and asexual development, as well as radial growth in deletion sltA colonies. This reduction was accompanied by lower expression of the morphology related genes nsdD, steA and brlA. Interestingly, addition of calcium was able to stimulate asexual and sexual development and remediate the deletion sltA phenotype, including defects in morphology and toxin production.
Fungi possess genetic systems to regulate the expression of genes involved in complex processes such as development and secondary metabolite biosynthesis. The product of the velvet gene veA, first identified and characterized in Aspergillus nidulans, is a key player in the regulation of both of these processes. Since its discovery and characterization in many Aspergillus species, VeA has been found to have similar functions in other fungi, including the Dothideomycete Mycosphaerella graminicola. Another Dothideomycete, Dothistroma septosporum, is a pine needle pathogen that produces dothistromin, a polyketide toxin very closely related to aflatoxin (AF) and sterigmatocystin (ST) synthesized by Aspergillus spp. Dothistromin is unusual in that, unlike most other secondary metabolites, it is produced mainly during the early exponential growth phase in culture. It was therefore of interest to determine whether the regulation of dothistromin production in D. septosporum differs from the regulation of AF/ST in Aspergillus spp. To begin to address this question, a veA ortholog was identified and its function analyzed in D. septosporum. Inactivation of the veA gene resulted in reduced dothistromin production and a corresponding decrease in expression of dothistromin biosynthetic genes. Expression of other putative secondary metabolite genes in D. septosporum such as polyketide synthases and non-ribosomal peptide synthases showed a range of different responses to loss of Ds-veA. Asexual sporulation was also significantly reduced in the mutants, accompanied by a reduction in the expression of a putative stuA regulatory gene. The mutants were, however, able to infect Pinus radiata seedlings and complete their life cycle under laboratory conditions. Overall this work suggests that D. septosporum has a veA ortholog that is involved in the control of both developmental and secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways.
Bacillus megaterium is deep-rooted in the Bacillus phylogeny, making it an evolutionarily key species and of particular importance in understanding genome evolution, dynamics, and plasticity in the bacilli. B. megaterium is a commercially available, nonpathogenic host for the biotechnological production of several substances, including vitamin B(12), penicillin acylase, and amylases. Here, we report the analysis of the first complete genome sequences of two important B. megaterium strains, the plasmidless strain DSM319 and QM B1551, which harbors seven indigenous plasmids. The 5.1-Mbp chromosome carries approximately 5,300 genes, while QM B1551 plasmids represent a combined 417 kb and 523 genes, one of the largest plasmid arrays sequenced in a single bacterial strain. We have documented extensive gene transfer between the plasmids and the chromosome. Each strain carries roughly 300 strain-specific chromosomal genes that account for differences in their experimentally confirmed phenotypes. B. megaterium is able to synthesize vitamin B(12) through an oxygen-independent adenosylcobalamin pathway, which together with other key energetic and metabolic pathways has now been fully reconstructed. Other novel genes include a second ftsZ gene, which may be responsible for the large cell size of members of this species, as well as genes for gas vesicles, a second ?-galactosidase gene, and most but not all of the genes needed for genetic competence. Comprehensive analyses of the global Bacillus gene pool showed that only an asymmetric region around the origin of replication was syntenic across the genus. This appears to be a characteristic feature of the Bacillus spp. genome architecture and may be key to their sporulating lifestyle.
In eukaryotes, the principal nuclear import pathway is driven by the importin alpha/beta1 heterodimer. KapA, the Aspergillus nidulans importin alpha, is an essential protein. We generated a conditional allele, kapA31, mimicking the srp1-31 allele in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. KapA31 carries a Ser111Phe amino acid substitution which, at the restrictive temperature of 42 degrees C, reduces nuclear import of cargos containing classical nuclear-localization-sequences, cNLS. Using kapA31, we have demonstrated the role of the importin alpha in the nuclear accumulation of the light-dependent developmental regulator VeA. KapA have additional tasks in the cell, as reported for other members of the importin alpha family. KapA participates at different regulatory stages of asexual and sexual development, being required for the completion of both reproductive cycles with the formation of conidiospores and ascospores, respectively. Finally, KapA also mediates in different pathways of secondary metabolism having a dual role: positively for penicillin production and negatively for mycotoxin biosynthesis.
Invasive aspergillosis by Aspergillus fumigatus is a leading cause of infection-related mortality in immunocompromised patients. In this study, we show that veA, a major conserved regulatory gene that is unique to fungi, is necessary for normal morphogenesis in this medically relevant fungus. Although deletion of veA results in a strain with reduced conidiation, overexpression of this gene further reduced conidial production, indicating that veA has a major role as a regulator of development in A. fumigatus and that normal conidiation is only sustained in the presence of wild-type VeA levels. Furthermore, our studies revealed that veA is a positive regulator in the production of gliotoxin, a secondary metabolite known to be a virulent factor in A. fumigatus. Deletion of veA resulted in a reduction of gliotoxin production with respect to that of the wild-type control. This reduction in toxin coincided with a decrease in gliZ and gliP expression, which is necessary for gliotoxin biosynthesis. Interestingly, veA also influences protease activity in this organism. Specifically, deletion of veA resulted in a reduction of protease activity; this is the first report of a veA homolog with a role in controlling fungal hydrolytic activity. Although veA affects several cellular processes in A. fumigatus, pathogenicity studies in a neutropenic mouse infection model indicated that veA is dispensable for virulence.
In Aspergillus nidulans the global regulatory gene veA is necessary for the biosynthesis of several secondary metabolites, including the mycotoxin sterigmatocystin (ST). In order to identify additional veA-dependent genetic elements involved in regulating ST production, we performed a mutagenesis on a deletion veA (?veA) strain to obtain revertant mutants (RM) that regained the capability to produce toxin. Genetic analysis and molecular characterization of one of the revertant mutants, RM3, revealed that a point mutation occurred at the coding region of the rtfA gene, encoding a RNA-pol II transcription elongation factor-like protein, similar to Saccharomyces cerevisiae Rtf1. The A. nidulans rtfA gene product accumulates in nuclei. Deletion of rtfA gene in a ?veA background restored mycotoxin production in a medium-dependent manner. rtfA also affects the production of other metabolites including penicillin. Biosynthesis of this antibiotic decreased in the absence of rtfA. Furthermore, rtfA is necessary for normal morphological development. Deletion of the rtfA gene in wild-type strains (veA+) resulted in a slight decrease in growth rate, drastic reduction in conidiation, and complete loss of sexual development. This is the first study of an Rtf1 like gene in filamentous fungi. We found rtfA putative orthologues extensively conserved in numerous fungal species.
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