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1.  Fumarate-Mediated Inhibition of Erythrose Reductase, a Key Enzyme for Erythritol Production by Torula corallina 
Torula corallina, a strain presently being used for the industrial production of erythritol, has the highest erythritol yield ever reported for an erythritol-producing microorganism. The increased production of erythritol by Torula corallina with trace elements such as Cu2+ has been thoroughly reported, but the mechanism by which Cu2+ increases the production of erythritol has not been studied. This study demonstrated that supplemental Cu2+ enhanced the production of erythritol, while it significantly decreased the production of a major by-product that accumulates during erythritol fermentation, which was identified as fumarate by instrumental analyses. Erythrose reductase, a key enzyme that converts erythrose to erythritol in T. corallina, was purified to homogeneity by chromatographic methods, including ion-exchange and affinity chromatography. In vitro, purified erythrose reductase was significantly inhibited noncompetitively by increasing the fumarate concentration. In contrast, the enzyme activity remained almost constant regardless of Cu2+ concentration. This suggests that supplemental Cu2+ reduced the production of fumarate, a strong inhibitor of erythrose reductase, which led to less inhibition of erythrose reductase and a high yield of erythritol. This is the first report that suggests catabolite repression by a tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate in T. corallina.
PMCID: PMC124133  PMID: 12200310
2.  Melanin in Fonsecaea pedrosoi: a trap for oxidative radicals 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:80.
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.
PMCID: PMC2845570  PMID: 20233438
3.  A Developmentally Regulated Gene Cluster Involved in Conidial Pigment Biosynthesis in Aspergillus fumigatus 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(20):6469-6477.
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.
PMCID: PMC103784  PMID: 10515939
4.  Singlet Molecular Oxygen Generation by Light-Activated DHN-Melanin of the Fungal Pathogen Mycosphaerella fijiensis in Black Sigatoka Disease of Bananas 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91616.
In pathogenic fungi, melanin contributes to virulence, allowing tissue invasion and inactivation of the plant defence system, but has never been implicated as a factor for host cell death, or as a light-activated phytotoxin. Our research shows that melanin synthesized by the fungal banana pathogen Mycosphaerella fijiensis acts as a virulence factor through the photogeneration of singlet molecular oxygen O2 (1Δg). Using analytical tools, including elemental analysis, ultraviolet/infrared absorption spectrophometry and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry analysis, we characterized both pigment content in mycelia and secreted to the culture media as 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin type compound. This is sole melanin-type in M. fijiensis. Isolated melanins irradiated with a Nd:YAG laser at 532 nm produced monomol light emission at 1270 nm, confirming generation of O2 (1Δg), a highly reactive oxygen specie (ROS) that causes cellular death by reacting with all cellular macromolecules. Intermediary polyketides accumulated in culture media by using tricyclazole and pyroquilon (two inhibitors of DHN-melanin synthesis) were identified by ESI-HPLC-MS/MS. Additionally, irradiation at 532 nm of that mixture of compounds and whole melanized mycelium also generated O2 (1Δg). A pigmented-strain generated more O2 (1Δg) than a strain with low melanin content. Banana leaves of cultivar Cavendish, naturally infected with different stages of black Sigatoka disease, were collected from field. Direct staining of the naturally infected leaf tissues showed the presence of melanin that was positively correlated to the disease stage. We also found hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) but we cannot distinguish the source. Our results suggest that O2 (1Δg) photogenerated by DHN-melanin may be involved in the destructive effects of Mycosphaerella fijiensis on banana leaf tissues. Further studies are needed to fully evaluate contributions of melanin-mediated ROS to microbial pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3960117  PMID: 24646830
5.  Biosynthesis and Functions of a Melanoid Pigment Produced by Species of the Sporothrix Complex in the Presence of l-Tyrosine 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(24):8623-8630.
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.
PMCID: PMC3502921  PMID: 23042177
6.  Growth conditions influence melanization of Brazilian clinical Sporothrix schenckii isolates 
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.
PMCID: PMC2746353  PMID: 19328867
Sporothrix schenckii; melanin; culture conditions
7.  Biosynthesis and Functions of Melanin in Sporothrix schenckii 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(6):3696-3703.
Sporothrix schenckii is a human pathogen that causes sporotrichosis, an important cutaneous mycosis with a worldwide distribution. It produces dark-brown conidia, which infect the host. We found that S. schenckii synthesizes melanin via the 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene pentaketide pathway. Melanin biosynthesis in the wild type was inhibited by tricyclazole, and colonies of the fungus were reddish brown instead of black on tricyclazole-amended medium. Two melanin-deficient mutant strains were analyzed in this study: an albino that produced normal-appearing melanin on scytalone-amended medium and a reddish brown mutant that accumulated and extruded melanin metabolites into its medium. Scytalone and flaviolin obtained from cultures of the reddish brown mutant were identified by thin-layer chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, and UV spectra. Transmission electron microscopy showed an electron-dense granular material believed to be melanin in wild-type conidial cell walls, and this was absent in conidial walls of the albino mutant unless the albino was grown on a scytalone-amended medium. Melanized cells of wild-type S. schenckii and the albino grown on scytalone-amended medium were less susceptible to killing by chemically generated oxygen- and nitrogen-derived radicals and by UV light than were conidia of the mutant strains. Melanized conidia of the wild type and the scytalone-treated albino were also more resistant to phagocytosis and killing by human monocytes and murine macrophages than were unmelanized conidia of the two mutants. These results demonstrate that melanin protects S. schenckii against certain oxidative antimicrobial compounds and against attack by macrophages.
PMCID: PMC97661  PMID: 10816530
8.  The influence of ortho- and para-diphenoloxidase substrates on pigment formation in black yeast-like fungi 
Studies in Mycology  2008;61:39-49.
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 4-hydroxyphenyl-pyruvic acid, L-β-phenyllactic acid, tyrosine, pyrocatechol, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine and homogentisic acid, as well as substrates of p-diphenoloxidases (EC 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 polyphenoloxidase.
PMCID: PMC2610312  PMID: 19287525
Black yeast-like fungi; Dothideales; dothideaceous black yeasts; 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene-melanin; phenoloxidases; o-diphenoloxidases; p-diphenoloxidases
9.  Purification and Characterization of a Novel Erythrose Reductase from Candida magnoliae 
Erythritol biosynthesis is catalyzed by erythrose reductase, which converts erythrose to erythritol. Erythrose reductase, however, has never been characterized in terms of amino acid sequence and kinetics. In this study, NAD(P)H-dependent erythrose reductase was purified to homogeneity from Candida magnoliae KFCC 11023 by ion exchange, gel filtration, affinity chromatography, and preparative electrophoresis. The molecular weights of erythrose reductase determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and gel filtration chromatography were 38,800 and 79,000, respectively, suggesting that the enzyme is homodimeric. Partial amino acid sequence analysis indicates that the enzyme is closely related to other yeast aldose reductases. C. magnoliae erythrose reductase catalyzes the reduction of various aldehydes. Among aldoses, erythrose was the preferred substrate (Km = 7.9 mM; kcat/Km = 0.73 mM−1 s−1). This enzyme had a dual coenzyme specificity with greater catalytic efficiency with NADH (kcat/Km = 450 mM−1 s−1) than with NADPH (kcat/Km = 5.5 mM−1 s−1), unlike previously characterized aldose reductases, and is specific for transferring the 4-pro-R hydrogen of NADH, which is typical of members of the aldo/keto reductase superfamily. Initial velocity and product inhibition studies are consistent with the hypothesis that the reduction proceeds via a sequential ordered mechanism. The enzyme required sulfhydryl compounds for optimal activity and was strongly inhibited by Cu2+ and quercetin, a strong aldose reductase inhibitor, but was not inhibited by aldehyde reductase inhibitors and did not catalyze the reduction of the substrates for carbonyl reductase. These data indicate that the C. magnoliae erythrose reductase is an NAD(P)H-dependent homodimeric aldose reductase with an unusual dual coenzyme specificity.
PMCID: PMC165123  PMID: 12839736
10.  Erythritol Metabolism in Wild-Type and Mutant Strains of Schizophyllum commune 
Journal of Bacteriology  1969;100(2):625-634.
Erythritol uptake and metabolism were compared in wild-type mycelium and a dome morphological mutant of the wood-rotting mushroom Schizophyllum commune. Wild-type mycelium utilized glucose, certain hexitols, and pentitols including ribitol, as well as d-erythrose, erythritol, and glycerol as sole carbon sources for growth. The dome mutant utilized all of these compounds except d-erythrose and erythritol. Erythritol- or glycerol-grown wild-type mycelium incorporated erythritol into various cellular constituents, whereas glucose-grown cells lagged considerably before initiation of erythritol uptake. This acquisition was inhibited by cycloheximide. Dome mycelium showed behavior similar to wild-type in uptake of erythritol after growth on glucose or glycerol, except that erythritol was not further catabolized. Enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism were compared in cell extracts of glucose-cultured wild-type mycelium and dome. Enzymes of hexose monophosphate catabolism, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)-dependent sugar alcohol dehydrogenases, and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH)-coupled erythrose reductase were demonstrated in both. The occurrence of erythrose reductase was unaffected by the nature of the growth carbon source, showed optimal activity at pH 7, and generated NAD phosphate and erythritol as products of the reaction. Glycerol-, d-erythrose-, or erythritol-grown wild-type mycelium contained an NAD-dependent erythritol dehydrogenase absent in glucose cells. Erythritol dehydrogenase activity was optimal at pH 8.8 and produced erythrulose during NAD reduction. Glycerol-growth of dome mycelium induced the erythritol uptake system, but a functional erythritol dehydrogenase could not be demonstrated. Neither wild-type nor dome mycelium produced erythritol dehydrogenase during growth on ribitol. Erythritol metabolism in wild-type cells of S. commune, therefore, involves an NADPH-dependent reduction of d-erythrose to produce erythritol, followed by induction of an NAD-coupled erythritol dehydrogenase to form erythrulose. A deficiency in erythritol dehydrogenase rather than permeability barriers explains why dome cannot employ erythritol as sole carbon source for mycelial growth.
PMCID: PMC250136  PMID: 4390964
11.  Surface Structure Characterization of Aspergillus fumigatus Conidia Mutated in the Melanin Synthesis Pathway and Their Human Cellular Immune Response 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(8):3141-3153.
In Aspergillus fumigatus, the conidial surface contains dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin. Six-clustered gene products have been identified that mediate sequential catalysis of DHN-melanin biosynthesis. Melanin thus produced is known to be a virulence factor, protecting the fungus from the host defense mechanisms. In the present study, individual deletion of the genes involved in the initial three steps of melanin biosynthesis resulted in an altered conidial surface with masked surface rodlet layer, leaky cell wall allowing the deposition of proteins on the cell surface and exposing the otherwise-masked cell wall polysaccharides at the surface. Melanin as such was immunologically inert; however, deletion mutant conidia with modified surfaces could activate human dendritic cells and the subsequent cytokine production in contrast to the wild-type conidia. Cell surface defects were rectified in the conidia mutated in downstream melanin biosynthetic pathway, and maximum immune inertness was observed upon synthesis of vermelone onward. These observations suggest that although melanin as such is an immunologically inert material, it confers virulence by facilitating proper formation of the A. fumigatus conidial surface.
PMCID: PMC4136205  PMID: 24818666
12.  Molecular Cloning and Characterization of WdPKS1, a Gene Involved in Dihydroxynaphthalene Melanin Biosynthesis and Virulence in Wangiella (Exophiala) dermatitidis 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(3):1781-1794.
1,8-Dihydroxynaphthalene (1,8-DHN) is a fungal polyketide that contributes to virulence when polymerized to 1,8-DHN melanin in the cell walls of Wangiella dermatitidis, an agent of phaeohyphomycosis in humans. To begin a genetic analysis of the initial synthetic steps leading to 1,8-DHN melanin biosynthesis, a 772-bp PCR product was amplified from genomic DNA using primers based on conserved regions of fungal polyketide synthases (Pks) known to produce the first cyclized 1,8-DHN-melanin pathway intermediate, 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene. The cloned PCR product was then used as a targeting sequence to disrupt the putative polyketide synthase gene, WdPKS1, in W. dermatitidis. The resulting wdpks1Δ disruptants showed no morphological defects other than an albino phenotype and grew at the same rate as their black wild-type parent. Using a marker rescue approach, the intact WdPKS1 gene was then successfully recovered from two plasmids. The WdPKS1 gene was also isolated independently by complementation of the mel3 mutation in an albino mutant of W. dermatitidis using a cosmid library. Sequence analysis substantiated that WdPKS1 encoded a putative polyketide synthase (WdPks1p) in a single open reading frame consisting of three exons separated by two short introns. This conclusion was supported by the identification of highly conserved Pks domains for a β-ketoacyl synthase, an acetyl-malonyl transferase, two acyl carrier proteins, and a thioesterase in the deduced amino acid sequence. Studies using a neutrophil killing assay and a mouse acute-infection model confirmed that all wdpks1Δ strains were less resistant to killing and less virulent, respectively, than their wild-type parent. Reconstitution of 1,8-DHN melanin biosynthesis in a wdpks1Δ strain reestablished its resistance to killing by neutrophils and its ability to cause fatal mouse infections.
PMCID: PMC98085  PMID: 11179356
13.  Enhancing the Stress Tolerance and Virulence of an Entomopathogen by Metabolic Engineering of Dihydroxynaphthalene Melanin Biosynthesis Genes ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(13):4508-4519.
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.
PMCID: PMC3127726  PMID: 21571888
14.  Conidial Dihydroxynaphthalene Melanin of the Human Pathogenic Fungus Aspergillus fumigatus Interferes with the Host Endocytosis Pathway 
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.
PMCID: PMC3128974  PMID: 21747802
Aspergillus fumigatus; endocytosis; melanin; neutrophils; macrophages; phagolysosome; virulence
15.  Aspergillus fumigatus melanins: interference with the host endocytosis pathway and impact on virulence 
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.
PMCID: PMC3548413  PMID: 23346079
Aspergillus fumigatus; melanin; virulence; apoptosis; phagocytes; endocytosis
16.  ChLae1 and ChVel1 Regulate T-toxin Production, Virulence, Oxidative Stress Response, and Development of the Maize Pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(2):e1002542.
LaeA and VeA coordinate secondary metabolism and differentiation in response to light signals in Aspergillus spp. Their orthologs, ChLae1 and ChVel1, were identified in the maize pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus, known to produce a wealth of secondary metabolites, including the host selective toxin, T-toxin. Produced by race T, T-toxin promotes high virulence to maize carrying Texas male sterile cytoplasm (T-cms). T-toxin production is significantly increased in the dark in wild type (WT), whereas Chvel1 and Chlae1 mutant toxin levels are much reduced in the dark compared to WT. Correspondingly, expression of T-toxin biosynthetic genes (Tox1) is up-regulated in the dark in WT, while dark-induced expression is much reduced/minimal in Chvel1 and Chlae1 mutants. Toxin production and Tox1 gene expression are increased in ChVEL1 overexpression (OE) strains grown in the dark and in ChLAE1 strains grown in either light or dark, compared to WT. These observations establish ChLae1 and ChVel1 as the first factors known to regulate host selective toxin production. Virulence of Chlae1 and Chvel1 mutants and OE strains is altered on both T-cms and normal cytoplasm maize, indicating that both T-toxin mediated super virulence and basic pathogenic ability are affected. Deletion of ChLAE1 or ChVEL1 reduces tolerance to H2O2. Expression of CAT3, one of the three catalase genes, is reduced in the Chvel1 mutant. Chlae1 and Chvel1 mutants also show decreased aerial hyphal growth, increased asexual sporulation and female sterility. ChLAE1 OE strains are female sterile, while ChVEL1 OE strains are more fertile than WT. ChLae1 and ChVel1 repress expression of 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin biosynthesis genes, and, accordingly, melanization is enhanced in Chlae1 and Chvel1 mutants, and reduced in OE strains. Thus, ChLae1 and ChVel1 positively regulate T-toxin biosynthesis, pathogenicity and super virulence, oxidative stress responses, sexual development, and aerial hyphal growth, and negatively control melanin biosynthesis and asexual differentiation.
Author Summary
Filamentous fungi produce chemically diverse metabolites that broker positive and negative interactions with other organisms, manage host pathogenicity/virulence, nutritional and environmental stresses, and differentiation of the fungus. The maize pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus is notorious as the causal agent of the most economically devastating epidemic to date, in 1970. Disease severity was associated with appearance of a new race, producing T-toxin, a host selective toxin promoting high virulence to Texas male sterile cytoplasm maize, widely planted at the time. LaeA and VeA are central regulators of secondary metabolism in Aspergillus, coordinating metabolite production and differentiation in response to light. Given the significance of effector-type host selective toxins in pathogenic interactions, we characterized ChLae1 and ChVel1 and found that deletion and overexpression affect T-toxin production in planta and in vitro. Both chlorosis due to T-toxin and necrotic lesion formation are altered, establishing these as the first factors known to regulate both super virulence conferred by T-toxin, and basic pathogenicity, due to unknown factors. The mutants are also altered in oxidative stress responses, key to success in the infection court, asexual and sexual development, essential for fungal dissemination in the field, aerial hyphal growth, and pigment biosynthesis, essential for survival in the field.
PMCID: PMC3285592  PMID: 22383877
17.  Laccases Involved in 1,8-Dihydroxynaphthalene Melanin Biosynthesis in Aspergillus fumigatus Are Regulated by Developmental Factors and Copper Homeostasis 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(12):1641-1652.
Aspergillus fumigatus produces heavily melanized infectious conidia. The conidial melanin is associated with fungal virulence and resistance to various environmental stresses. This 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin is synthesized by enzymes encoded in a gene cluster in A. fumigatus, including two laccases, Abr1 and Abr2. Although this gene cluster is not conserved in all aspergilli, laccases are critical for melanization in all species examined. Here we show that the expression of A. fumigatus laccases Abr1/2 is upregulated upon hyphal competency and drastically increased during conidiation. The Abr1 protein is localized at the surface of stalks and conidiophores, but not in young hyphae, consistent with the gene expression pattern and its predicted role. The induction of Abr1/2 upon hyphal competency is controlled by BrlA, the master regulator of conidiophore development, and is responsive to the copper level in the medium. We identified a developmentally regulated putative copper transporter, CtpA, and found that CtpA is critical for conidial melanization under copper-limiting conditions. Accordingly, disruption of CtpA enhanced the induction of abr1 and abr2, a response similar to that induced by copper starvation. Furthermore, nonpigmented ctpAΔ conidia elicited much stronger immune responses from the infected invertebrate host Galleria mellonella than the pigmented ctpAΔ or wild-type conidia. Such enhancement in eliciting Galleria immune responses was independent of the ctpAΔ conidial viability, as previously observed for the DHN melanin mutants. Taken together, our findings indicate that both copper homeostasis and developmental regulators control melanin biosynthesis, which affects conidial surface properties that shape the interaction between this pathogen and its host.
PMCID: PMC3889567  PMID: 24123270
18.  Identification of biochemical pathways for the metabolism of oxidized low-density lipoprotein derived aldehyde-4-hydroxy trans-2-nonenal in vascular smooth muscle cells 
Atherosclerosis  2001;158(2):339-350.
Oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) generates high concentrations of unsaturated aldehydes, such as 4-hydroxy trans-2-nonenal (HNE). These aldehydes are mitogenic to vascular smooth muscle cells and sustain a vascular inflammation. Nevertheless, the processes that mediate and regulate the vascular metabolism of these aldehydes have not been examined. In this communication, we report the identification of the major metabolic pathways and products of [3H]-HNE in rat aortic smooth muscle cells in culture. High-performance liquid chromatography separation of the radioactivity recovered from these cells revealed that a large (60–65%) proportion of the metabolism was linked to glutathione (GSH). Electrospray mass spectrometry showed that glutathionyl-1,4 dihydroxynonene (GS-DHN) was the major metabolite of HNE in these cells. The formation of GS-DHN appears to be due aldose reductase (AR)-catalyzed reduction of glutathionyl 4-hydroxynonanal (GS-HNE), since inhibitors of AR (tolrestat or sorbinil) prevented GS-DHN formation, and increased the fraction of the glutathione conjugate remaining as GS-HNE. Gas chromatography–chemical ionization mass spectroscopy of the metabolites identified a subsidiary route of HNE metabolism leading to the formation of 4-hydroxynonanoic acid (HNA). Oxidation to HNA accounted for 25–30% of HNE metabolism. The formation of HNA was inhibited by cyanamide, indicating that the acid is derived from an aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)-catalyzed pathway. The overall rate of HNE metabolism was insensitive to inhibition of AR or ALDH, although inhibition of HNA formation by cyanamide led to a corresponding increase in the fraction of HNE metabolized by the GSH-linked pathway, indicating that ALDH-catalyzed oxidation competes with glutathione conjugation. These metabolic pathways may be the key regulators of the vascular effects of HNE and oxidized LDL.
PMCID: PMC3469324  PMID: 11583712
Lipid peroxidation; 4-Hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal; Glutathione conjugates; Aldose reductase; Vascular smooth muscle cells; Atherosclerosis
19.  Identification and Characterization of Epoxide Carboxylase Activity in Cell Extracts of Nocardia corallina B276 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(8):2072-2078.
The metabolism of aliphatic epoxides (epoxyalkanes) by the alkene-utilizing actinomycete Nocardia corallina B276 was investigated. Suspensions of N. corallina cells grown with propylene as the carbon source readily degraded propylene and epoxypropane, while suspensions of glucose-grown cells did not. The addition of propylene and epoxypropane to glucose-grown cells resulted in a time-dependent increase in propylene- and epoxypropane-degrading activities that was prevented by the addition of rifampin and chloramphenicol. The expression of alkene- and epoxide-degrading activities was correlated with the high-level expression of several polypeptides not present in extracts of glucose-grown cells. Epoxypropane and epoxybutane degradation by propylene-grown cell suspensions of N. corallina was stimulated by the addition of CO2 and inhibited by the depletion of CO2. Cell extracts catalyzed the carboxylation of epoxypropane to form acetoacetate in a reaction that was dependent on the addition of CO2, NAD+, and a reductant (NADPH or dithiothreitol). In the absence of CO2, epoxypropane was isomerized by cell extracts to form acetone at a rate approximately 10-fold lower than the rate of epoxypropane carboxylation. Methylepoxypropane was found to be a time-dependent, irreversible inactivator of epoxyalkane-degrading activity. These properties demonstrate that epoxyalkane metabolism in N. corallina occurs by a carboxylation reaction forming β-keto acids as products and provide evidence for the involvement in this reaction of an epoxide carboxylase with properties and cofactor requirements similar to those of the four-component epoxide carboxylase enzyme system of the gram-negative bacterium Xanthobacter strain Py2 (J. R. Allen and S. A. Ensign, J. Biol. Chem. 272:32121–32128, 1997). The addition of epoxide carboxylase component I from Xanthobacter strain Py2 to methylepoxypropane-inactivated N. corallina extracts restored epoxide carboxylase activity, and the addition of epoxide carboxylase component II from Xanthobacter Py2 to active N. corallina extracts stimulated epoxide isomerase rates to the same levels observed with the purified Xanthobacter system. Antibodies raised against Xanthobacter strain Py2 epoxide carboxylase component I cross-reacted with a polypeptide in propylene-grown N. corallina extracts with the same molecular weight as component I but did not cross-react with glucose-grown extracts. Together, these results suggest a common pathway of epoxyalkane metabolism for phylogenetically distinct bacteria that involves CO2 fixation and the activity of a multicomponent epoxide carboxylase enzyme system.
PMCID: PMC107132  PMID: 9555888
20.  Melanin Production by a Filamentous Soil Fungus in Response to Copper and Localization of Copper Sulfide by Sulfide-Silver Staining 
Gaeumannomyces graminis var. graminis, a filamentous soil ascomycete, exhibited enhanced cell wall melanin accumulation when exposed to as little as 0.01 mM CuSO(inf4) in minimal broth culture. Because its synthesis was inhibited by tricyclazole, the melanin produced in response to copper was dihydroxynaphthalene melanin. An additional hyphal cell wall layer was visualized by electron microscopy when hyphae were grown in the presence of copper and fixed by cryotechniques. This electron-dense layer was between the outer cell wall and the inner chitin layer and doubled the total wall thickness. In copper-grown cells that were also treated with tricyclazole, this electron-dense layer was absent. Atomic absorption spectroscopy demonstrated that up to 3.5 mg of Cu per g of fungal mycelium was adsorbed or taken up by hyphae grown in 0.06 mM CuSO(inf4). A method for silver enhancement was developed to determine the cellular location of CuS. CuS was present in cell walls and septa of copper-grown hyphae. Electron microscopy of silver-stained cells suggested that CuS was associated with the melanin layer of cell walls.
PMCID: PMC1388449  PMID: 16535031
21.  Molecular cloning and biochemical characterization of a novel erythrose reductase from Candida magnoliae JH110 
Erythrose reductase (ER) catalyzes the final step of erythritol production, which is reducing erythrose to erythritol using NAD(P)H as a cofactor. ER has gained interest because of its importance in the production of erythritol, which has extremely low digestibility and approved safety for diabetics. Although ERs were purified and characterized from microbial sources, the entire primary structure and the corresponding DNA for ER still remain unknown in most of erythritol-producing yeasts. Candida magnoliae JH110 isolated from honeycombs produces a significant amount of erythritol, suggesting the presence of erythrose metabolizing enzymes. Here we provide the genetic sequence and functional characteristics of a novel NADPH-dependent ER from C. magnoliae JH110.
The gene encoding a novel ER was isolated from an osmophilic yeast C. magnoliae JH110. The ER gene composed of 849 nucleotides encodes a polypeptide with a calculated molecular mass of 31.4 kDa. The deduced amino acid sequence of ER showed a high degree of similarity to other members of the aldo-keto reductase superfamily including three ER isozymes from Trichosporonoides megachiliensis SNG-42. The intact coding region of ER from C. magnoliae JH110 was cloned, functionally expressed in Escherichia coli using a combined approach of gene fusion and molecular chaperone co-expression, and subsequently purified to homogeneity. The enzyme displayed a temperature and pH optimum at 42°C and 5.5, respectively. Among various aldoses, the C. magnoliae JH110 ER showed high specific activity for reduction of erythrose to the corresponding alcohol, erythritol. To explore the molecular basis of the catalysis of erythrose reduction with NADPH, homology structural modeling was performed. The result suggested that NADPH binding partners are completely conserved in the C. magnoliae JH110 ER. Furthermore, NADPH interacts with the side chains Lys252, Thr255, and Arg258, which could account for the enzyme's absolute requirement of NADPH over NADH.
A novel ER enzyme and its corresponding gene were isolated from C. magnoliae JH110. The C. magnoliae JH110 ER with high activity and catalytic efficiency would be very useful for in vitro erythritol production and could be applied for the production of erythritol in other microorganisms, which do not produce erythritol.
PMCID: PMC2902421  PMID: 20529366
22.  Synthesis and assembly of fungal melanin 
Melanin is a unique pigment with myriad functions that is found in all biological kingdoms. It is multifunctional, providing defense against environmental stresses such as ultraviolet (UV) light, oxidizing agents and ionizing radiation. Melanin contributes to the ability of fungi to survive in harsh environments. In addition, it plays a role in fungal pathogenesis. Melanin is an amorphous polymer that is produced by one of two synthetic pathways. Fungi may synthesize melanin from endogenous substrate via a 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) intermediate. Alternatively, some fungi produce melanin from l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-dopa). The detailed chemical structure of melanin is not known. However, microscopic studies show that it has an overall granular structure. In fungi, melanin granules are localized to the cell wall where they are likely cross-linked to polysaccharides. Recent studies suggest the fungal melanin may be synthesized in internal vesicles akin to mammalian melanosomes and transported to the cell wall. Potential applications of melanin take advantage of melanin's radioprotective properties and propensity to bind to a variety of substances.
PMCID: PMC4318813  PMID: 22173481
Fungi; Melanin; Cell wall; Vesicle; Chitin; Radioprotection
23.  New Biosynthetic Step in the Melanin Pathway of Wangiella (Exophiala) dermatitidis: Evidence for 2-Acetyl-1,3,6,8-Tetrahydroxynaphthalene as a Novel Precursor▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2008;7(10):1699-1711.
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.
PMCID: PMC2568069  PMID: 18676950
24.  Mineral Supplementation Increases Erythrose Reductase Activity in Erythritol Biosynthesis from Glycerol by Yarrowia lipolytica 
Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology  2014;172(6):3069-3078.
The aim of this study was to examine the impact of divalent copper, iron, manganese, and zinc ions on the production of erythritol from glycerol by Yarrowia lipolytica and their effect on the activity of erythrose reductase. No inhibitory effect of the examined minerals on yeast growth was observed in the study. Supplementation with MnSO4·7H2O (25 mg l−1) increased erythritol production by Y. lipolytica by 14.5 %. In the bioreactor culture with manganese ion addition, 47.1 g l−1 of erythritol was produced from 100.0 g l−1 of glycerol, which corresponded to volumetric productivity of 0.87 g l−1 h−1. The addition of Mn2+ enhanced the intracellular activity of erythrose reductase up to 24.9 U g−1 of dry weight of biomass (DW), hence, about 1.3 times more than in the control.
PMCID: PMC3962577  PMID: 24488778
Erythritol; Erythrose reductase; Glycerol; Minerals; Yarrowia lipolytica
25.  Biosynthesis of Hexahydroxyperylenequinone Melanin via Oxidative Aryl Coupling by Cytochrome P-450 in Streptomyces griseus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(23):8149-8155.
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.
PMCID: PMC1291289  PMID: 16291687

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