Wangiella dermatitidis is a human pathogenic fungus that is an etiologic agent of phaeohyphomycosis. W. dermatitidis produces a black pigment that has been identified as a dihydroxynaphthalene melanin and the production of this pigment is associated with its virulence. Cell wall pigmentation in W. dermatitidis depends on the WdPKS1 gene, which encodes a polyketide synthase required for generating the key precursor for dihydroxynaphthalene melanin biosynthesis.
We analyzed the effects of disrupting WdPKS1 on dihydroxynaphthalene melanin production and resistance to antifungal compounds. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that wdpks1Δ-1 yeast had thinner cell walls that lacked an electron-opaque layer compared to wild-type cells. However, digestion of the wdpks1Δ-1 yeast revealed small black particles that were consistent with a melanin-like compound, because they were acid-resistant, reacted with melanin-binding antibody, and demonstrated a free radical signature by electron spin resonance analysis. Despite lacking the WdPKS1 gene, the mutant yeast were capable of catalyzing the formation of melanin from L-3,4-dihyroxyphenylalanine. The wdpks1Δ-1 cells were significantly more susceptible to killing by voriconazole, amphotericin B, NP-1 [a microbicidal peptide], heat and cold, and lysing enzymes than the heavily melanized parental or complemented strains.
In summary, W. dermatitidis makes WdPKS-dependent and -independent melanins, and the WdPKS1-dependent deposition of melanin in the cell wall confers protection against antifungal agents and environmental stresses. The biological role of the WdPKS-independent melanin remains unclear.
The predominant cell wall melanin of Wangiella dermatitidis, a black fungal pathogen of humans, is synthesized from 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (D2HN). An early precursor, 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (T4HN), in the pathway leading to D2HN is reportedly produced directly as a pentaketide by an iterative type I polyketide synthase (PKS). In contrast, the bluish-green pigment in Aspergillus fumigatus is produced after the enzyme Ayg1p converts the PKS product, the heptaketide YWA1, to T4HN. Previously, we created a new melanin-deficient mutant of W. dermatitidis, WdBrm1, by random molecular insertion. From this strain, the altered gene WdYG1 was cloned by a marker rescue strategy and found to encode WdYg1p, an ortholog of Ayg1p. In the present study, two gene replacement mutants devoid of the complete WdYG1 gene were derived to eliminate the possibility that the phenotype of WdBrm1 was due to other mutations. Characterization of the new mutants showed that they were phenotypically identical to WdBrm1. Chemical analyses of mutant cultures demonstrated that melanin biosynthesis was blocked, resulting in the accumulation of 2-acetyl-1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (AT4HN) and its oxidative product 3-acetylflaviolin in the culture media. When given to an albino W. dermatitidis strain with an inactivated WdPKS1 gene, AT4HN was mostly oxidized to 3-acetylflaviolin and deacetylated to flaviolin. Under reduced oxygen conditions, cell-free homogenates of the albino converted AT4HN to D2HN. This is the first report of evidence that the hexaketide AT4HN is a melanin precursor for T4HN in W. dermatitidis.
The opportunistic human pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus produces at least two types of melanin, namely pyomelanin and dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin. Pyomelanin is produced during tyrosine catabolism via accumulation of homogentisic acid. Although pyomelanin protects the fungus against reactive oxygen species (ROS) and acts as a defense compound in response to cell wall stress, mutants deficient for pyomelanin biosynthesis do not differ in virulence when tested in a murine infection model for invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. DHN melanin is responsible for the characteristic gray-greenish color of A. fumigatus conidia. Mutants lacking a functional polyketide synthase PksP, the enzyme responsible for the initial step in DHN-melanin formation, i.e., the synthesis of naphthopyrone, produce white spores and are attenuated in virulence. The activity of PksP was found to be essential not only for inhibition of apoptosis of phagocytes by interfering with the host PI3K/Akt signaling cascade but also for effective inhibition of acidification of conidia-containing phagolysosomes. These features allow A. fumigatus to survive in phagocytes and thereby to escape from human immune effector cells and to become a successful pathogen.
Aspergillus fumigatus; melanin; virulence; apoptosis; phagocytes; endocytosis
The pathogenic fungus Fonsecaea pedrosoi constitutively produces the pigment melanin, an important virulence factor in fungi. Melanin is incorporated in the cell wall structure and provides chemical and physical protection for the fungus.
We evaluated the production of nitric oxide (NO) in macrophages, the oxidative burst and the inducible nitric oxide synthase (i-NOS) activity in interactions between activated murine macrophages and F. pedrosoi. Experiments were carried out with or without tricyclazole (TC) treatment, a selective inhibitor of the dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin biosynthesis pathway in F. pedrosoi. The paramagnetisms of melanin and the TC-melanin were analysed by electron spin resonance. The fungal growth responses to H2O2 and to S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP), a nitric oxide donor, were also evaluated.
Melanised F. pedrosoi cells were more resistant to both H2O2 and NO. Nitrite was not detected in the supernatant of macrophages incubated with melanised fungal cells. However, i-NOS expression was unaffected by the presence of either untreated control F. pedrosoi or TC-treated F. pedrosoi. In addition, the inhibition of the DHN-melanin pathway by TC improved the oxidative burst capability of the macrophages.
The NO-trapping ability of F. pedrosoi melanin is an important mechanism to escape the oxidative burst of macrophages.
The yeast Torula corallina is a strong erythritol producer that is used in the industrial production of erythritol. However, melanin accumulation during culture represents a serious problem for the purification of erythritol from the fermentation broth. Melanin biosynthesis inhibitors such as 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine and 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin inhibitors were added to the T. corallina cultures. Only the DHN-melanin inhibitors showed an effect on melanin production, which suggests that the melanin formed during the culturing of T. corallina is derived from DHN. This finding was confirmed by the detection of a shunt product of the pentaketide pathway, flaviolin, and elemental analysis. Among the DHN-melanin inhibitors, tricyclazole was the most effective. Supplementation with tricyclazole enhanced the production of erythritol while significantly inhibiting the production of DHN-melanin and DHN-melanin biosynthetic enzymes, such as trihydroxynaphthalene reductase. The erythrose reductase from T. corallina was purified to homogeneity by ion-exchange and affinity chromatography. Purified erythrose reductase was significantly inhibited in vitro in a noncompetitive manner by elevated levels of DHN-melanin. In contrast, the level of erythrose reductase activity was unaffected by increasing concentrations of tricyclazole. These results suggest that supplemental tricyclazole reduces the production of DHN-melanin, which may lead to a reduction in the inhibition of erythrose reductase and a higher yield of erythritol. This is the first report to demonstrate that melanin biosynthesis inhibitors increase the production of a sugar alcohol in T. corallina.
Aspergillus fumigatus, a filamentous fungus producing bluish-green conidia, is an important opportunistic pathogen that primarily affects immunocompromised patients. Conidial pigmentation of A. fumigatus significantly influences its virulence in a murine model. In the present study, six genes, forming a gene cluster spanning 19 kb, were identified as involved in conidial pigment biosynthesis in A. fumigatus. Northern blot analyses showed the six genes to be developmentally regulated and expressed during conidiation. The gene products of alb1 (for “albino 1”), arp1 (for “aspergillus reddish-pink 1”), and arp2 have high similarity to polyketide synthases, scytalone dehydratases, and hydroxynaphthalene reductases, respectively, found in the dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin pathway of brown and black fungi. The abr1 gene (for “aspergillus brown 1”) encodes a putative protein possessing two signatures of multicopper oxidases. The abr2 gene product has homology to the laccase encoded by the yA gene of Aspergillus nidulans. The function of ayg1 (for “aspergillus yellowish-green 1”) remains unknown. Involvement of the six genes in conidial pigmentation was confirmed by the altered conidial color phenotypes that resulted from disruption of each gene in A. fumigatus. The presence of a DHN-melanin pathway in A. fumigatus was supported by the accumulation of scytalone and flaviolin in the arp1 deletant, whereas only flaviolin was accumulated in the arp2 deletants. Scytalone and flaviolin are well-known signature metabolites of the DHN-melanin pathway. Based on DNA sequence similarity, gene disruption results, and biochemical analyses, we conclude that the 19-kb DNA fragment contains a six-gene cluster which is required for conidial pigment biosynthesis in A. fumigatus. However, the presence of abr1, abr2, and ayg1 in addition to alb1, arp1, and arp2 suggests that conidial pigment biosynthesis in A. fumigatus is more complex than the known DHN-melanin pathway.
Aspergillus fumigatus, an important opportunistic
pathogen which commonly affects neutropenic patients, produces conidia
with a bluish-green color. We identified a gene, alb1,
which is required for conidial pigmentation. The alb1 gene
encodes a putative polyketide synthase, and disruption of
alb1 resulted in an albino conidial phenotype. Expression
of alb1 is developmentally regulated, and the 7-kb
transcript is detected only during the conidiation stage. The
alb1 mutation was found to block
1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene production, indicating that
alb1 is involved in dihydroxynaphthalene-melanin
biosynthesis. Scanning electron microscopy studies showed that the
alb1 disruptant exhibited a smooth conidial surface,
whereas complementation of the alb1 deletion restored the
echinulate wild-type surface. Disruption of alb1 resulted
in a significant increase in C3 binding on conidial surfaces, and the
conidia of the alb1 disruptant were ingested by human
neutrophils at a higher rate than were those of the wild type. The
alb1-complemented strain producing bluish-green conidia
exhibited inefficient C3 binding and neutrophil-mediated phagocytosis
quantitatively similar to those of the wild type. Importantly, the
alb1 disruptant had a statistically significant loss of
virulence compared to the wild-type and alb1-complemented
strains in a murine model. These results suggest that disruption of
alb1 causes pleiotropic effects on conidial morphology and
Entomopathogenic fungi have been used for biocontrol of insect pests for many decades. However, the efficacy of such fungi in field trials is often inconsistent, mainly due to environmental stresses, such as UV radiation, temperature extremes, and desiccation. To circumvent these hurdles, metabolic engineering of dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin biosynthetic genes (polyketide synthase, scytalone dehydratase, and 1,3,8-trihydroxynaphthalene reductase genes) cloned from Alternaria alternata were transformed into the amelanotic entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Melanin expression in the transformant of M. anisopliae was verified by spectrophotometric methods, liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS), and confocal microscopy. The transformant, especially under stresses, showed notably enhanced antistress capacity and virulence, in terms of germination and survival rate, infectivity, and reduced median time to death (LT50) in killing diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) larvae compared with the wild type. The possible mechanisms in enhancing the stress tolerance and virulence, and the significance and potential for engineering melanin biosynthesis genes in other biocontrol agents and crops to improve antistress fitness are discussed.
Sporothrix schenckii is the etiological agent of sporotrichosis, the main subcutaneous mycosis in Latin America. Melanin is an important virulence factor of S. schenckii, which produces dihydroxynaphthalene melanin (DHN-melanin) in conidia and yeast cells. Additionally, l-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-DOPA) can be used to enhance melanin production on these structures as well as on hyphae. Some fungi are able to synthesize another type of melanoid pigment, called pyomelanin, as a result of tyrosine catabolism. Since there is no information about tyrosine catabolism in Sporothrix spp., we cultured 73 strains, including representatives of newly described Sporothrix species of medical interest, such as S. brasiliensis, S. schenckii, and S. globosa, in minimal medium with tyrosine. All strains but one were able to produce a melanoid pigment with a negative charge in this culture medium after 9 days of incubation. An S. schenckii DHN-melanin mutant strain also produced pigment in the presence of tyrosine. Further analysis showed that pigment production occurs in both the filamentous and yeast phases, and pigment accumulates in supernatants during stationary-phase growth. Notably, sulcotrione inhibits pigment production. Melanin ghosts of wild-type and DHN mutant strains obtained when the fungus was cultured with tyrosine were similar to melanin ghosts yielded in the absence of the precursor, indicating that this melanin does not polymerize on the fungal cell wall. However, pyomelanin-producing fungal cells were more resistant to nitrogen-derived oxidants and to UV light. In conclusion, at least three species of the Sporothrix complex are able to produce pyomelanin in the presence of tyrosine, and this pigment might be involved in virulence.
The black yeast Exophiala (Wangiella) dermatitidis is an increasingly recognized pathogen and a leading cause of severe pheohyphomycosis. Melanin is thought to contribute to the virulence of E. dermatitidis. Whereas the synthesis and the redox properties of melanin have been studied intensively, the influence of melanin and carotenoids on the phagocytosis, the oxidative burst, and the killing of E. dermatitidis by human neutrophils has not been studied. To study their effects on these phenomena, we applied a combination of flow cytometry and a colony-count-dependent method. Using E. dermatitidis wild-type strain 8565 and several melanin-deficient mutants that have been described previously, we demonstrate that melanin prevents this pathogen from being killed in the phagolysosome of the neutrophils. Melanin did not influence the phagocytosis or the oxidative burst of the neutrophils involved. The carotenoids torulene and torularhodine were not found to contribute to the prevention of killing. The ability of E. dermatitidis to block the effects of the neutrophil oxidative burst may critically impair the potential of the host to sufficiently eliminate this fungal pathogen and thus may play an important role in the pathogenesis of phaeohyphomycosis.
Observations of enhanced growth of melanized fungi under low-dose ionizing radiation in the laboratory and in the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor suggest they have adapted the ability to survive or even benefit from exposure to ionizing radiation. However, the cellular and molecular mechanism of fungal responses to such radiation remains poorly understood. Using the black yeast Wangiella dermatitidis as a model, we confirmed that ionizing radiation enhanced cell growth by increasing cell division and cell size. Using RNA-seq technology, we compared the transcriptomic profiles of the wild type and the melanin-deficient wdpks1 mutant under irradiation and non-irradiation conditions. It was found that more than 3000 genes were differentially expressed when these two strains were constantly exposed to a low dose of ionizing radiation and that half were regulated at least two fold in either direction. Functional analysis indicated that many genes for amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism and cell cycle progression were down-regulated and that a number of antioxidant genes and genes affecting membrane fluidity were up-regulated in both irradiated strains. However, the expression of ribosomal biogenesis genes was significantly up-regulated in the irradiated wild-type strain but not in the irradiated wdpks1 mutant, implying that melanin might help to contribute radiation energy for protein translation. Furthermore, we demonstrated that long-term exposure to low doses of radiation significantly increased survivability of both the wild-type and the wdpks1 mutant, which was correlated with reduced levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), increased production of carotenoid and induced expression of genes encoding translesion DNA synthesis. Our results represent the first functional genomic study of how melanized fungal cells respond to low dose ionizing radiation and provide clues for the identification of biological processes, molecular pathways and individual genes regulated by radiation.
By using improved transformation methods for Wangiella
dermatitidis, and a cloned fragment of its chitin synthase 4
structural gene (WdCHS4) as a marking sequence, the
full-length gene was rescued from the genome of this human pathogenic
fungus. The encoded chitin synthase product (WdChs4p) showed high
homology with Chs3p of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and other
class IV chitin synthases, and Northern blotting showed that
WdCHS4 was expressed at constitutive levels under all
conditions tested. Reduced chitin content, abnormal yeast clumpiness
and budding kinetics, and increased melanin secretion resulted from the
disruption of WdCHS4 suggesting that WdChs4p influences
cell wall structure, cellular reproduction, and melanin deposition,
respectively. However, no significant loss of virulence was detected
when the wdchs4Δ strain was tested in an acute mouse
model. Using a wdchs1Δ wdchs2Δ wdchs3Δ triple mutant
of W. dermatitidis, which grew poorly but adequately at
25°C, we assayed WdChs4p activity in the absence of activities
contributed by its three other WdChs proteins. Maximal activity
required trypsin activation, suggesting a zymogenic nature. The
activity also had a pH optimum of 7.5, was most stimulated by
Mg2+, and was more inhibited by polyoxin D than by
nikkomycin Z. Although the WdChs4p activity had a broad temperature
optimum between 30 to 45°C in vitro, this activity alone did not
support the growth of the wdchs1Δ wdchs2Δ wdchs3Δ
triple mutant at 37°C, a temperature commensurate with infection.
The genome sequencing of the fungus Aspergillus niger uncovered a large cache of genes encoding enzymes thought to be involved in the production of secondary metabolites yet to be identified. Identification and structural characterization of many of these predicted secondary metabolites are hampered by their low concentration relative to the known A. niger metabolites such as the naphtho-γ-pyrone family of polyketides. We deleted a nonreducing PKS gene in A. niger strain ATCC 11414, a daughter strain of A. niger ATCC strain 1015 whose genome was sequenced by the DOE Joint Genome Institute. This PKS encoding gene we name albA is a predicted ortholog of alb1 from Aspergillus fumigatus which is responsible for production of the naphtho-γ-pyrone precursor for the 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin/spore pigment. Our results show that the A. nigeralbA PKS is responsible for both the production of the spore pigment precursor and a family of naphtho-γ-pyrones commonly found in significant quantity in A. niger culture extracts. The generation of an A. niger strain devoid of naphtho-γ-pyrones will greatly facilitate the elucidation of cryptic biosynthetic pathways in this organism.
Secondary Metabolism; Aspergillus niger; Natural Products; Genomics; Naphtho-γ-pyrone; Polyketides
The greater wax moth Galleria mellonella has been widely used as
a heterologous host for a number of fungal pathogens including Candida
albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans. A positive
correlation in pathogenicity of these yeasts in this insect model and animal
models has been observed. However, very few studies have evaluated the
possibility of applying this heterologous insect model to investigate virulence
traits of the filamentous fungal pathogen Aspergillus
fumigatus, the leading cause of invasive aspergillosis. Here, we have
examined the impact of mutations in genes involved in melanin biosynthesis on
the pathogenicity of A. fumigatus in the G.
mellonella model. Melanization in A. fumigatus confers
bluish-grey color to conidia and is a known virulence factor in mammal models.
Surprisingly, conidial color mutants in B5233 background that have deletions in
the defined six-gene cluster required for DHN-melanin biosynthesis caused
enhanced insect mortality compared to the parent strain. To further examine and
confirm the relationship between melanization defects and enhanced virulence in
the wax moth model, we performed random insertional mutagenesis in the Af293
genetic background to isolate mutants producing altered conidia colors. Strains
producing conidia of previously identified colors and of novel colors were
isolated. Interestingly, these color mutants displayed a higher level of
pathogenicity in the insect model compared to the wild type. Although some of
the more virulent color mutants showed increased resistance to hydrogen
peroxide, overall phenotypic characterizations including secondary metabolite
production, metalloproteinase activity, and germination rate did not reveal a
general mechanism accountable for the enhanced virulence of these color mutants
observed in the insect model. Our observations indicate instead, that
exacerbated immune response of the wax moth induced by increased exposure of
PAMPs (pathogen-associated molecular patterns) may cause self-damage that
results in increased mortality of larvae infected with the color mutants. The
current study underscores the limitations of using this insect model for
inferring the pathogenic potential of A. fumigatus strains in
mammals, but also points to the importance of understanding the innate immunity
of the insect host in providing insights into the pathogenicity level of
different fungal strains in this model. Additionally, our observations that
melanization defective color mutants demonstrate increased virulence in the
insect wax moth, suggest the potential of using melanization defective mutants
of native insect fungal pathogens in the biological control of insect
Melanin pigments are substances produced by a broad variety of pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and helminths. Microbes predominantly produce melanin pigment via tyrosinases, laccases, catecholases, and the polyketide synthase pathway. In fungi, melanin is deposited in the cell wall and cytoplasm, and melanin particles (“ghosts”) can be isolated from these fungi that have the same size and shape of the original cells. Melanin has been reported in several human pathogenic dimorphic fungi including Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, Sporothrix schenckii, Histoplasma capsulatum, Blastomyces dermatitidis, and Coccidioides posadasii. Melanization appears to contribute to virulence by reducing the susceptibility of melanized fungi to host defense mechanisms and antifungal drugs.
Paracoccidioides brasiliensis; Melanin; Dimorphic fungi; Susceptibility; Pathogenesis
1,8-Dihydroxynaphthalene melanin in Wangiella dermatitidis and Alternaria alternata was titrated in vivo with the oxidants permanganate, hypochlorite, and H2O2. Melanized strains neutralized more oxidant and withstood higher concentrations of permanganate and hypochlorite than albino strains did. H2O2 killing required 1,000-fold higher concentrations, and melanin did not protect W. dermatitidis against H2O2.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the most important air-borne fungal pathogen of humans. The interaction of the pathogen with the host's immune system represents a key process to understand pathogenicity. For elimination of invading microorganisms, they need to be efficiently phagocytosed and located in acidified phagolysosomes. However, as shown previously, A. fumigatus is able to manipulate the formation of functional phagolysosomes. Here, we demonstrate that in contrast to pigmentless pksP mutant conidia of A. fumigatus, the gray-green wild-type conidia inhibit the acidification of phagolysosomes of alveolar macrophages, monocyte-derived macrophages, and human neutrophil granulocytes. Therefore, this inhibition is independent of the cell type and applies to the major immune effector cells required for defense against A. fumigatus. Studies with melanin ghosts indicate that the inhibitory effect of wild-type conidia is due to their dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin covering the conidia, whereas the hydrophobin RodA rodlet layer plays no role in this process. This is also supported by the observation that pksP conidia still exhibit the RodA hydrophobin layer, as shown by scanning electron microscopy. Mutants defective in different steps of the DHN-melanin biosynthesis showed stronger inhibition than pksP mutant conidia but lower inhibition than wild-type conidia. Moreover, A. fumigatus and A. flavus led to a stronger inhibition of phagolysosomal acidification than A. nidulans and A. terreus. These data indicate that a certain type of DHN-melanin that is different in the various Aspergillus species, is required for maximal inhibition of phagolysosomal acidification. Finally, we identified the vacuolar ATPase (vATPase) as potential target for A. fumigatus based on the finding that addition of bafilomycin which inhibits vATPase, led to complete inhibition of the acidification whereas the fusion of phagosomes containing wild-type conidia and lysosomes was not affected.
Aspergillus fumigatus; endocytosis; melanin; neutrophils; macrophages; phagolysosome; virulence
The filamentous fungus Alternaria alternata produces melanin, a black pigment, from acetate via 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene. To isolate a fungal gene required for melanin biosynthesis, we transformed an A. alternata Brm1- (light brown) mutant with the DNA of a wild-type strain genomic library constructed by use of a cosmid carrying the hygromycin B phosphotransferase gene. When hygromycin B-resistant transformants were screened for melanin production, 1 of 1,363 transformants appeared to regain melanin production, as judged by black pigmentation of the cultured mycelia. The cosmid, named pMBR1, was recovered by packaging nuclear DNA of the melanin-producing transformant into lambda phage. The gene on pMBR1 that enables the Brm1- mutant to produce melanin was designated BRM1. In addition to the BRM1 gene, pMBR1 was found to carry two more genes involved in melanin biosynthesis. These two genes, designated ALM and BRM2, transformed A. alternata Alm- (albino) and Brm2- (brown) mutants, respectively, to the wild-type phenotype. The three genes are located within a ca. 30-kb genomic region in the order ALM-BRM1-BRM2. Analysis of the gene transcripts indicated approximate sizes of 7.2, 4.0, and 0.9 kb for ALM, BRM1, and BRM2, respectively. The BRM1 and BRM2 transcripts are generated from the same strand, but the ALM transcript is generated from the opposite strand. The three mRNA species accumulate in cultured mycelia of the wild-type strain synchronously with mycelial melanization. The essential roles of the three genes in melanin biosynthesis were confirmed by transformation-mediated gene disruption experiments.
Dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) melanins formed from tyrosine by tyrosinases are found in microorganisms, plants, and animals. Most species in the soil-dwelling, gram-positive bacterial genus Streptomyces produce DOPA melanins and melanogenesis is one of the characteristics used for taxonomy. Here we report a novel melanin biosynthetic pathway involving a type III polyketide synthase (PKS), RppA, and a cytochrome P-450 enzyme, P-450mel, in Streptomyces griseus. In vitro reconstitution of the P-450mel catalyst with spinach ferredoxin-NADP+ reductase/ferredoxin revealed that it catalyzed oxidative biaryl coupling of 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (THN), which was formed from five molecules of malonyl-coenzyme A by the action of RppA to yield 1,4,6,7,9,12-hexahydroxyperylene-3,10-quinone (HPQ). HPQ readily autopolymerized to generate HPQ melanin. Disruption of either the chromosomal rppA or P-450mel gene resulted in abolishment of the HPQ melanin synthesis in S. griseus and a decrease in the resistance of spores to UV-light irradiation. These findings show that THN-derived melanins are not exclusive in eukaryotic fungal genera but an analogous pathway is conserved in prokaryotic streptomycete species as well. A vivid contrast in THN melanin biosynthesis between streptomycetes and fungi is that the THN synthesized by the action of a type III PKS is used directly for condensation in the former, while the THN synthesized by the action of type I PKSs is first reduced and the resultant 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene is then condensed in the latter.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the most important airborne fungal pathogen of immunosuppressed humans. A. fumigatus is able to produce dihydroxynaphthalene melanin, which is predominantly present in the conidia. Its biosynthesis is an important virulence determinant. Here, we show that A. fumigatus is able to produce an alternative melanin, i.e., pyomelanin, by a different pathway, starting from l-tyrosine. Proteome analysis indicated that the l-tyrosine degradation enzymes are synthesized when the fungus is grown with l-tyrosine in the medium. To investigate the pathway in detail, we deleted the genes encoding essential enzymes for pigment production, homogentisate dioxygenase (hmgA) and 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (hppD). Comparative Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy of synthetic pyomelanin and pigment extracted from A. fumigatus cultures confirmed the identity of the observed pigment as pyomelanin. In the hmgA deletion strain, HmgA activity was abolished and the accumulation of homogentisic acid provoked an increased pigment formation. In contrast, homogentisic acid and pyomelanin were not observed with an hppD deletion mutant. Germlings of the hppD deletion mutant showed an increased sensitivity to reactive oxygen intermediates. The transcription of both studied genes was induced by l-tyrosine. These results confirmed the function of the deleted genes and the predicted pathway in A. fumigatus. Homogentisic acid is the major intermediate, and the l-tyrosine degradation pathway leading to pyomelanin is similar to that in humans leading to alkaptomelanin.
The fungal pathogen Candida albicans produces dark-pigmented melanin after 3 to 4 days of incubation in medium containing l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-DOPA) as a substrate. Expression profiling of C. albicans revealed very few genes significantly up- or downregulated by growth in l-DOPA. We were unable to determine a possible role for melanin in the virulence of C. albicans. However, we showed that melanin was externalized from the fungal cells in the form of electron-dense melanosomes that were free or often loosely bound to the cell wall exterior. Melanin production was boosted by the addition of N-acetylglucosamine to the medium, indicating a possible association between melanin production and chitin synthesis. Melanin externalization was blocked in a mutant specifically disrupted in the chitin synthase-encoding gene CHS2. Melanosomes remained within the outermost cell wall layers in chs3Δ and chs2Δ chs3Δ mutants but were fully externalized in chs8Δ and chs2Δ chs8Δ mutants. All the CHS mutants synthesized dark pigment at equivalent rates from mixed membrane fractions in vitro, suggesting it was the form of chitin structure produced by the enzymes, not the enzymes themselves, that was involved in the melanin externalization process. Mutants with single and double disruptions of the chitinase genes CHT2 and CHT3 and the chitin pathway regulator ECM33 also showed impaired melanin externalization. We hypothesize that the chitin product of Chs3 forms a scaffold essential for normal externalization of melanosomes, while the Chs8 chitin product, probably produced in cell walls in greater quantity in the absence of CHS2, impedes externalization.
Dothideaceous black yeast-like fungi (BYF) are known to synthesise
DHN-melanin that is inhibited by the systemic fungicide tricyclazole. The
final step of the DHN melanin pathway is the conjoining of 1,8-DHN molecules
to form the melanin polymer. There are several candidate enzymes for this
step, including phenoloxidases such as tyrosinase and laccases, peroxidases,
and perhaps also catalases. We analysed the type polyphenoloxidases that are
involved in biosynthesis of BYF melanins. For that purpose we used substrates
of o-diphenoloxidases (EC 188.8.131.52.): 4-hydroxyphenyl-pyruvic acid,
L-β-phenyllactic acid, tyrosine, pyrocatechol, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine
and homogentisic acid, as well as substrates of p-diphenoloxidases (EC
184.108.40.206.): syringaldazine, resorcinol, p-phenylenediamine, phloroglucinol,
guaiacol and pyrogallic acid. Fourteen strains of black yeasts originating
from different natural biotopes were investigated. The tested strains could be
divided into four groups based on their ability to produce dark pigments when
cultivated on aromatic substrates of o- and on p-diphenoloxidases. It was
established that syringaldazine, pyrogallic acid and 4-hydrophenyl-pyruvic
acid, β-phenyllactic acid optimally promote melanin biosynthesis. Average
intensity of pigmentation of all strains studied was minimal when guaiacol was
used as a substrate. The present investigation indicates that the melanisation
process may involve more enzymes and more substrates than those commonly
recognised. Black yeasts are likely to contain a multipotent
Black yeast-like fungi; Dothideales; dothideaceous black yeasts; 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene-melanin; phenoloxidases; o-diphenoloxidases; p-diphenoloxidases
Wangiella (Exophiala) dermatitidis is a polymorphic fungus that produces polarized yeast and hyphae, as well as a number of non-polarized sclerotic morphotypes. The phenotypic malleability of this agent of human phaeohyphomycosis allows detailed study of its biology, virulence and the regulatory mechanisms responsible for the transitions among the morphotypes. Our prior studies have demonstrated the existence of seven chitin synthase structural genes in W. dermatitidis, each of which encodes an isoenzyme of a different class. Among them, the class V chitin synthase (WdChs5p) is most unique in terms of protein structure, because it has an N-terminal myosin motor-like domain with a P-loop (MMD) fused to its C-terminal chitin synthase catalytic domain (CSCD). However, the exact role played by WdChs5p in the different morphotypes remains undefined beyond the knowledge that it is the only single chitin synthase required for sustained cell growth at 37°C and consequently virulence. This report describes the expression in E. coli of a 12 kDa polypeptide (WdMyo12p) of WdChs5p, which was used to raise in rabbits a polyclonal antibody that recognized exclusively its MMD region. Results from the use of the antibody in immunocytolocalization studies supported our previous findings that WdChs5p is critically important at infection temperatures for maintaining the cell wall integrity of developing yeast buds, elongating tips of hyphae, and random sites of expansion in sclerotic forms. The results also suggested that WdChs5p localizes to the regions of cell wall growth in an actin dependent fashion.
class V chitin synthase; black fungus; enzyme immunocytolocalization; phaeohyphomycosis agent
Zearalenone, a mycotoxin produced by several Fusarium spp., is most commonly found as a contaminant in stored grain and has chronic estrogenic effects on mammals. Zearalenone is a polyketide derived from the sequential condensation of multiple acetate units by a polyketide synthase (PKS), but the genetics of its biosynthesis are not understood. We cloned two genes, designated ZEA1 and ZEA2, which encode polyketide synthases that participate in the biosynthesis of zearalenone by Gibberella zeae (anamorph Fusarium graminearum). Disruption of either gene resulted in the loss of zearalenone production under inducing conditions. ZEA1 and ZEA2 are transcribed divergently from a common promoter region. Quantitative PCR analysis of both PKS genes and six flanking genes supports the view that the two polyketide synthases make up the core biosynthetic unit for zearalenone biosynthesis. An appreciation of the genetics of zearalenone biosynthesis is needed to understand how zearalenone is synthesized under field conditions that result in the contamination of grain.
Sporothrix schenckii is known to produce DHN melanin on both conidial and yeast cells, however little information is available regarding the factors inducing fungal melanization. We evaluated whether culture conditions influenced melanization of 25 Brazilian S. schenckii strains and one control strain (ATCC 10212). Tested conditions included different media, pH, temperature, incubation time, glucose concentrations, and presence or absence of tricyclazole or L-DOPA. Melanization was reduced on Sabouraud compared to defined chemical medium. The majority of strains produced small amounts of melanin at 37°C and none melanized at basic pH. Increased glucose concentrations did not inhibit melanization, rather increasing glucose enhanced pigment production in 27% of strains. Melanin synthesis was also enhanced by the addition of L-DOPA and its addition to medium with tricyclazole, an inhibitor of melanin synthesis, resulted in fungal melanization, including hyphal melanin production. Our results suggest that different S. schenckii strains have distinct control of melanization and that this fungus can use phenolic compounds to enhance melanization in vitro.
Sporothrix schenckii; melanin; culture conditions