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1.  Naphtho-gamma-pyrone production by Aspergillus niger isolated from stored cottonseed. 
Aspergillus niger was found to be the predominant fungal contaminant of stored cottonseed. Seven strains were isolated and grown on rice. The hexane-insoluble material from methylene chloride extracts of 2-week-old cultures contained components toxic to mice. Based on high-pressure thin-layer and liquid chromatographic analyses, the major components in the mixture were eight different naphtho-gamma-pyrones. Of these, the hydrated dimeric naphthopyrones aurasperones B and C occurred in higher yield than aurasperones A, iso-A, and D and the monomeric naphthopyrones flavasperone and rubrofusarin, all of which were present in the mixture. In addition, fonsecin monomethyl ether was isolated. This metabolite may be a precursor in the biosynthesis of the hydrated aurasperones; it has not been identified previously as a metabolite of A. niger. The relative amounts of the different naphthopyrones were dependent on both the growth substrate and the fungal isolate.
PMCID: PMC240283  PMID: 6548104
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  The Developmentally Regulated alb1 Gene of Aspergillus fumigatus: Its Role in Modulation of Conidial Morphology and Virulence 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(12):3031-3038.
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 fungal virulence.
PMCID: PMC107801  PMID: 9620950
6.  Identification of Genes Associated with Morphology in Aspergillus niger by Using Suppression Subtractive Hybridization 
The morphology of citric acid production strains of Aspergillus niger is sensitive to a variety of factors, including the concentration of manganese (Mn2+). Upon increasing the Mn2+ concentration in A. niger (ATCC 11414) cultures to 14 ppb or higher, the morphology switches from pelleted to filamentous, accompanied by a rapid decline in citric acid production. The molecular mechanisms through which Mn2+ exerts effects on morphology and citric acid production in A. niger cultures have not been well defined, but our use of suppression subtractive hybridization has identified 22 genes responsive to Mn2+. Fifteen genes were differentially expressed when A. niger was grown in media containing 1,000 ppb of Mn2+ (filamentous form), and seven genes were expressed in 10 ppb of Mn2+ (pelleted form). Of the 15 filament-associated genes, seven are novel and eight share 47 to 100% identity with genes from other organisms. Five of the pellet-associated genes are novel, and the other two genes encode a pepsin-type protease and polyubiquitin. All 10 genes with deduced functions are either involved in amino acid metabolism-protein catabolism or cell regulatory processes. Northern blot analysis showed that the transcripts of all 22 genes were rapidly enhanced or suppressed by Mn2+. Steady-state mRNA levels of six selected filament-associated genes remained high during 5 days of culture in a filamentous state and remained low under pelleted growth conditions. The opposite behavior was observed for four selected pellet-associated genes. The full-length cDNA of the filament-associated clone, Brsa-25, was isolated. Antisense expression of Brsa-25 permitted pelleted growth and increased citrate production at concentrations of Mn2+ that were higher than the parent strain could tolerate. These results suggest the involvement of the newly isolated genes in the regulation of A. niger morphology.
PMCID: PMC383145  PMID: 15066846
7.  Metabolic peculiarities of Aspergillus niger disclosed by comparative metabolic genomics 
Genome Biology  2007;8(9):R182.
A genome-scale metabolic network and an in-depth genomic comparison of Aspergillus niger with seven other fungi is presented, revealing more than 1,100 enzyme-coding genes that are unique to A. niger.
Aspergillus niger is an important industrial microorganism for the production of both metabolites, such as citric acid, and proteins, such as fungal enzymes or heterologous proteins. Despite its extensive industrial applications, the genetic inventory of this fungus is only partially understood. The recently released genome sequence opens a new horizon for both scientific studies and biotechnological applications.
Here, we present the first genome-scale metabolic network for A. niger and an in-depth genomic comparison of this species to seven other fungi to disclose its metabolic peculiarities. The raw genomic sequences of A. niger ATCC 9029 were first annotated. The reconstructed metabolic network is based on the annotation of two A. niger genomes, CBS 513.88 and ATCC 9029, including enzymes with 988 unique EC numbers, 2,443 reactions and 2,349 metabolites. More than 1,100 enzyme-coding genes are unique to A. niger in comparison to the other seven fungi. For example, we identified additional copies of genes such as those encoding alternative mitochondrial oxidoreductase and citrate synthase in A. niger, which might contribute to the high citric acid production efficiency of this species. Moreover, nine genes were identified as encoding enzymes with EC numbers exclusively found in A. niger, mostly involved in the biosynthesis of complex secondary metabolites and degradation of aromatic compounds.
The genome-level reconstruction of the metabolic network and genome-based metabolic comparison disclose peculiarities of A. niger highly relevant to its biotechnological applications and should contribute to future rational metabolic design and systems biology studies of this black mold and related species.
PMCID: PMC2375020  PMID: 17784953
8.  Comparative Characterization of Fungal Anthracenone and Naphthacenedione Biosynthetic Pathways Reveals an α-Hydroxylation-Dependent Claisen-Like Cyclization Catalyzed by a Dimanganese Thioesterase 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2011;133(39):15773-15785.
The linear tetracyclic TAN-1612 (1) and BMS-192548 (2) were isolated from different filamentous fungal strains, and have been examined as potential neuropeptide Y and neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist respectively. Although the biosynthesis of fungal aromatic polyketides has attracted much interest in recent years, the biosynthetic mechanism for such naphthacenedione-containing products has not been established. Using a targeted genome mining approach, we first located the ada gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of 1 in Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015. The connection between 1 and the ada pathway was verified through overexpression of the Zn2Cys6-type pathway-specific transcriptional regulator AdaR and subsequent gene expression analysis. The enzymes encoded in the ada gene cluster share high sequence similarities to the known apt pathway linked to the biosynthesis of anthraquinone asperthecin 3. Subsequent comparative investigation of these two highly homologous gene clusters by heterologous pathway reconstitution in Saccharomyces cerevisiae revealed a novel α-hydroxylation-dependent Claisen cyclization cascade, which involves a flavin-dependent monooxygenase (FMO) that hydroxylates the α-carbon of an ACP-bound polyketide and a bifunctional metallo-β-lactamase-type thioesterase (MβL-TE). The bifunctional MβL-TE catalyzes the fourth ring cyclization to afford the naphthacenedione scaffold upon α-hydroxylation, while performs hydrolytic release of an anthracenone product in the absence of α-hydroxylation. Through in vitro biochemical characterizations and metal analyses, we verified that the apt MβL-TE is a dimanganese enzyme and requires both Mn2+ cations for the observed activities. The MβL-TE is the first example of TE in polyketide biosynthesis that catalyzes the Claisen-like condensation without an α/β hydrolase fold and forms no covalent bond with the substrate. These mechanistic features should be general to the biosynthesis of tetracyclic naphthacenedione compounds in fungi.
PMCID: PMC3183131  PMID: 21866960
9.  The transcriptomic fingerprint of glucoamylase over-expression in Aspergillus niger 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:701.
Filamentous fungi such as Aspergillus niger are well known for their exceptionally high capacity for secretion of proteins, organic acids, and secondary metabolites and they are therefore used in biotechnology as versatile microbial production platforms. However, system-wide insights into their metabolic and secretory capacities are sparse and rational strain improvement approaches are therefore limited. In order to gain a genome-wide view on the transcriptional regulation of the protein secretory pathway of A. niger, we investigated the transcriptome of A. niger when it was forced to overexpression the glaA gene (encoding glucoamylase, GlaA) and secrete GlaA to high level.
An A. niger wild-type strain and a GlaA over-expressing strain, containing multiple copies of the glaA gene, were cultivated under maltose-limited chemostat conditions (specific growth rate 0.1 h-1). Elevated glaA mRNA and extracellular GlaA levels in the over-expressing strain were accompanied by elevated transcript levels from 772 genes and lowered transcript levels from 815 genes when compared to the wild-type strain. Using GO term enrichment analysis, four higher-order categories were identified in the up-regulated gene set: i) endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane translocation, ii) protein glycosylation, iii) vesicle transport, and iv) ion homeostasis. Among these, about 130 genes had predicted functions for the passage of proteins through the ER and those genes included target genes of the HacA transcription factor that mediates the unfolded protein response (UPR), e.g. bipA, clxA, prpA, tigA and pdiA. In order to identify those genes that are important for high-level secretion of proteins by A. niger, we compared the transcriptome of the GlaA overexpression strain of A. niger with six other relevant transcriptomes of A. niger. Overall, 40 genes were found to have either elevated (from 36 genes) or lowered (from 4 genes) transcript levels under all conditions that were examined, thus defining the core set of genes important for ensuring high protein traffic through the secretory pathway.
We have defined the A. niger genes that respond to elevated secretion of GlaA and, furthermore, we have defined a core set of genes that appear to be involved more generally in the intensified traffic of proteins through the secretory pathway of A. niger. The consistent up-regulation of a gene encoding the acetyl-coenzyme A transporter suggests a possible role for transient acetylation to ensure correct folding of secreted proteins.
PMCID: PMC3554566  PMID: 23237452
Aspergillus niger; Protein expression; Secretion; HacA; Unfolded protein response; Endoplasmic reticulum; Glucoamylase; Transcriptome
10.  Seven naphtho-γ-pyrones from the marine-derived fungus Alternaria alternata: structure elucidation and biological properties 
Eight bioactive pyrone derivatives were identified from the culture of Alternaria alternata strain D2006, isolated from the marine soft coral Denderonephthya hemprichi, which was selected as its profound antimicrobial activities. The compounds were assigned as pyrophen (1), rubrofusarin B (2), fonsecin (3), and fonsecin B (5) beside to the four dimeric naphtho-γ-pyrones; aurasperone A (6), aurasperone B (7), aurasperone C (8), and aurasperone F (9). Structures of the isolated compounds were identified on the basis of 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopy and mass (EI, ESI, HRESI) data, and by comparison with the literature. Configuration of the four dimeric naphtho-γ-pyrones 6-9 was analyzed by CD spectra, exhibiting an identical stereochemistry.
PMCID: PMC3350997  PMID: 22377027
pyrone derivatives; Alternaria alternata; marine fungi; biological activity
11.  1,8-Dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-Melanin Biosynthesis Inhibitors Increase Erythritol Production in Torula corallina, and DHN-Melanin Inhibits Erythrose Reductase 
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.
PMCID: PMC161539  PMID: 12788746
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Allergens/Antigens, Toxins and Polyketides of Important Aspergillus Species 
The medical, agricultural and biotechnological importance of the primitive eukaryotic microorganisms, the Fungi was recognized way back in 1920. Among various groups of fungi, the Aspergillus species are studied in great detail using advances in genomics and proteomics to unravel biological and molecular mechanisms in these fungi. Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus nidulans and Aspergillus terreus are some of the important species relevant to human, agricultural and biotechnological applications. The potential of Aspergillus species to produce highly diversified complex biomolecules such as multifunctional proteins (allergens, antigens, enzymes) and polyketides is fascinating and demands greater insight into the understanding of these fungal species for application to human health. Recently a regulator gene for secondary metabolites, LaeA has been identified. Gene mining based on LaeA has facilitated new metabolites with antimicrobial activity such as emericellamides and antitumor activity such as terrequinone A from A. nidulans. Immunoproteomic approach was reported for identification of few novel allergens for A. fumigatus. In this context, the review is focused on recent developments in allergens, antigens, structural and functional diversity of the polyketide synthases that produce polyketides of pharmaceutical and biological importance. Possible antifungal drug targets for development of effective antifungal drugs and new strategies for development of molecular diagnostics are considered.
PMCID: PMC3107401  PMID: 22468035
Aspergillus species; Allergens; Polyketides
15.  Proteome analysis of Aspergillus niger: Lactate added in starch-containing medium can increase production of the mycotoxin fumonisin B2 by modifying acetyl-CoA metabolism 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:255.
Aspergillus niger is a filamentous fungus found in the environment, on foods and feeds and is used as host for production of organic acids, enzymes and proteins. The mycotoxin fumonisin B2 was recently found to be produced by A. niger and hence very little is known about production and regulation of this metabolite. Proteome analysis was used with the purpose to reveal how fumonisin B2 production by A. niger is influenced by starch and lactate in the medium.
Fumonisin B2 production by A. niger was significantly increased when lactate and starch were combined in the medium. Production of a few other A. niger secondary metabolites was affected similarly by lactate and starch (fumonisin B4, orlandin, desmethylkotanin and pyranonigrin A), while production of others was not (ochratoxin A, ochratoxin alpha, malformin A, malformin C, kotanin, aurasperone B and tensidol B). The proteome of A. niger was clearly different during growth on media containing 3% starch, 3% starch + 3% lactate or 3% lactate. The identity of 59 spots was obtained, mainly those showing higher or lower expression levels on medium with starch and lactate. Many of them were enzymes in primary metabolism and other processes that affect the intracellular level of acetyl-CoA or NADPH. This included enzymes in the pentose phosphate pathway, pyruvate metabolism, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, ammonium assimilation, fatty acid biosynthesis and oxidative stress protection.
Lactate added in a medium containing nitrate and starch can increase fumonisin B2 production by A. niger as well as production of some other secondary metabolites. Changes in the balance of intracellular metabolites towards a higher level of carbon passing through acetyl-CoA and a high capacity to regenerate NADPH during growth on medium with starch and lactate were found to be the likely cause of this effect. The results lead to the hypothesis that fumonisin production by A. niger is regulated by acetyl-CoA.
PMCID: PMC2807875  PMID: 20003296
16.  Effects of disrupting the polyketide synthase gene WdPKS1 in Wangiella [Exophiala] dermatitidis on melanin production and resistance to killing by antifungal compounds, enzymatic degradation, and extremes in temperature 
BMC Microbiology  2006;6:55.
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.
PMCID: PMC1569847  PMID: 16784529
17.  Characterization of oxylipins and dioxygenase genes in the asexual fungus Aspergillus niger 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:59.
Aspergillus niger is an ascomycetous fungus that is known to reproduce through asexual spores, only. Interestingly, recent genome analysis of A. niger has revealed the presence of a full complement of functional genes related to sexual reproduction [1]. An example of such genes are the dioxygenase genes which in Aspergillus nidulans, have been shown to be connected to oxylipin production and regulation of both sexual and asexual sporulation [2-4]. Nevertheless, the presence of sex related genes alone does not confirm sexual sporulation in A. niger.
The current study shows experimentally that A. niger produces the oxylipins 8,11-dihydroxy octadecadienoic acid (8,11-diHOD), 5,8-dihydroxy octadecadienoic acid (5,8-diHOD), lactonized 5,8-diHOD, 8-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (8-HOD), 10-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (10-HOD), small amounts of 8-hydroxy octadecamonoenoic acid (8-HOM), 9-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (9-HOD) and 13-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (13-HOD). Importantly, this study shows that the A. niger genome contains three putative dioxygenase genes, ppoA, ppoC and ppoD. Expression analysis confirmed that all three genes are indeed expressed under the conditions tested.
A. niger produces the same oxylipins and has similar dioxygenase genes as A. nidulans. Their presence could point towards the existence of sexual reproduction in A. niger or a broader role for the gene products in physiology, than just sexual development.
PMCID: PMC2666749  PMID: 19309517
18.  Discovery and Characterization of a Silent Gene Cluster that Produces Azaphilones from Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015 Reveal a Hydroxylation-Mediated Pyran-Ring Formation 
Chemistry & biology  2012;19(8):1049-1059.
Azaphilones are a class of fungal metabolites characterized by a highly oxygenated pyrano-quinone bicyclic core and exhibits a broad range of bioactivities. While widespread among various fungi, their biosynthesis has not been thoroughly elucidated. By activation of a silent (aza) gene cluster in Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015, we have discovered six new azaphilone compounds, azanigerones A-F (1, 3-7). Transcriptional analysis and deletion of a key polyketide synthase (PKS) gene further confirmed the involvement of the aza gene cluster. The biosynthetic pathway was shown to involve the convergent actions of a highly-reducing and a non-reducing PKSs. Most significantly, in vitro reaction of a key flavin-dependent monooxygenase encoded in the cluster with an early benzaldehyde intermediate revealed its roles in hydroxylation and pyran-ring formation to afford the characteristic bicylic core shared by azaphilones.
PMCID: PMC3428717  PMID: 22921072
19.  Formation of Sclerotia and Production of Indoloterpenes by Aspergillus niger and Other Species in Section Nigri 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94857.
Several species in Aspergillus section Nigri have been reported to produce sclerotia on well-known growth media, such as Czapek yeast autolysate (CYA) agar, with sclerotia considered to be an important prerequisite for sexual development. However Aspergillus niger sensu stricto has not been reported to produce sclerotia, and is thought to be a purely asexual organism. Here we report, for the first time, the production of sclerotia by certain strains of Aspergillus niger when grown on CYA agar with raisins, or on other fruits or on rice. Up to 11 apolar indoloterpenes of the aflavinine type were detected by liquid chromatography and diode array and mass spectrometric detection where sclerotia were formed, including 10,23-dihydro-24,25-dehydroaflavinine. Sclerotium induction can thus be a way of inducing the production of new secondary metabolites from previously silent gene clusters. Cultivation of other species of the black aspergilli showed that raisins induced sclerotium formation by A. brasiliensis, A. floridensis A. ibericus, A. luchuensis, A. neoniger, A. trinidadensis and A. saccharolyticus for the first time.
PMCID: PMC3988082  PMID: 24736731
20.  The Aspergillus niger multicopper oxidase family: analysis and overexpression of laccase-like encoding genes 
Many filamentous fungal genomes contain complex groups of multicopper oxidase (MCO) coding genes that makes them a good source for new laccases with potential biotechnological interest. A bioinformatics analysis of the Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015 genome resulted in the identification of thirteen MCO genes. Ten of them were cloned and homologously overexpressed.
A bioinformatic analysis of the A. niger ATCC 1015 genome revealed the presence of 13 MCO genes belonging to three different subfamilies on the basis of their phylogenetic relationships: ascomycete laccases, fungal pigment MCOs and fungal ferroxidases. According to in silico amino acid sequence analysis, the putative genes encoding for functional extracellular laccases (mcoA, mcoB, mcoC, mcoD, mcoE, mcoF, mcoG, mcoI, mcoJ and mcoM) were placed under the control of the glaA promoter and overexpressed in A. niger N593. Enzyme activity plate assays with several common laccase substrates showed that all genes are actually expressed and code for active MCOs. Interestingly, expressed enzymes show different substrate specificities. In addition, optimization of fungal pigment MCOs extracellular production was investigated. The performance of the widely used glucoamylase signal sequence (ssGlaA) in McoA secretion was studied. Results obtained suggest that ssGlaA do not yield higher levels of secreted McoA when compared to its native secretion signal. Also, McoB synthesis was investigated using different nitrogen sources in minimal medium liquid cultures. Higher yields of extracellular McoB were achieved with (NH4)2 tartrate.
Aspergillus niger is a good source of new laccases. The different substrate specificity observed in plate assays makes them interesting to be purified and biochemically compared. The homologous signal sequence of McoA has been shown to be a good choice for its extracellular overexpression. From the nitrogen sources tested (NH4)2 tartrate has been found to be the most appropriate for McoB production in A. niger.
PMCID: PMC3200161  PMID: 21981827
Multicopper oxidase; laccase; Aspergillus niger; secretion
21.  Complete Reconstitution of a Highly-Reducing Iterative Polyketide Synthase 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;326(5952):589-592.
Highly-reducing iterative polyketide synthases are large multifunctional enzymes that make important metabolites in fungi, such as lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug from Aspergillus terreus. We report efficient expression of LovB (the Lovastatin Nonaketide Synthase) from an engineered strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and complete reconstitution of its catalytic function in the presence and absence of cofactors (NADPH, SAM) and its partner enzyme, the enoyl reductase LovC. The results demonstrate that LovB retains correct intermediates until completion of synthesis of dihydromonacolin L, but off-loads incorrectly processed compounds as pyrones or hydrolytic products. Experiments replacing LovC with analogous MlcG from compactin biosynthesis demonstrate a gate-keeping function for this partner enzyme. This study represents a key step in the understanding the functions and structures of this family of enzymes.
PMCID: PMC2875069  PMID: 19900898
22.  Evolutionary Origins of the Fumonisin Secondary Metabolite Gene Cluster in Fusarium verticillioides and Aspergillus niger 
The secondary metabolite gene clusters of euascomycete fungi are among the largest known clusters of functionally related genes in eukaryotes. Most of these clusters are species specific or genus specific, and little is known about how they are formed during evolution. We used a comparative genomics approach to study the evolutionary origins of a secondary metabolite cluster that synthesizes a polyketide derivative, namely, the fumonisin (FUM) cluster of Fusarium verticillioides, and that of Aspergillus niger another fumonisin (fumonisin B) producing species. We identified homologs in other euascomycetes of the Fusarium verticillioides FUM genes and their flanking genes. We discuss four models for the origin of the FUM cluster in Fusarium verticillioides and argue that two of these are plausible: (i) assembly by relocation of initially scattered genes in a recent Fusarium verticillioides; or (ii) horizontal transfer of the FUM cluster from a distantly related Sordariomycete species. We also propose that the FUM cluster was horizontally transferred into Aspergillus niger, most probably from a Sordariomycete species.
PMCID: PMC3119522  PMID: 21716743
23.  Morphology engineering - Osmolality and its effect on Aspergillus niger morphology and productivity 
The filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger is a widely used strain in a broad range of industrial processes from food to pharmaceutical industry. One of the most intriguing and often uncontrollable characteristics of this filamentous organism is its complex morphology, ranging from dense spherical pellets to viscous mycelia depending on culture conditions. Optimal productivity correlates strongly with a specific morphological form, thus making high demands on process control.
In about 50 2L stirred tank cultivations the influence of osmolality on A. niger morphology and productivity was investigated. The specific productivity of fructofuranosidase producing strain A. niger SKAn 1015 could be increased notably from 0.5 to 9 U mg-1 h-1 around eighteen fold, by increasing the culture broth osmolality by addition of sodium chloride. The specific productivity of glucoamylase producing strain A. niger AB1.13, could be elevated using the same procedure. An optimal producing osmolality was shown to exist well over the standard osmolality at about 3.2 osmol kg-1 depending on the strain. Fungal morphology of all cultivations was examined by microscope and characterized by digital image analysis. Particle shape parameters were combined to a dimensionless Morphology number, which enabled a comprehensive characterization of fungal morphology correlating closely with productivity. A novel method for determination of germination time in submerged cultivations by laser diffraction, introduced in this study, revealed a decelerated germination process with increasing osmolality.
Through the introduction of the versatile Morphology number, this study provides the means for a desirable characterization of fungal morphology and demonstrates its relation to productivity. Furthermore, osmolality as a fairly new parameter in process engineering is introduced and found to affect fungal morphology and productivity. Osmolality might provide an auspicious and reliable approach to increase the productivity in industrial processes. Because of the predictable behavior fungal morphology showed in dependence of osmolality, a customization of morphology for process needs seems feasible.
PMCID: PMC3178489  PMID: 21801352
Aspergillus niger; fungal morphology; productivity; osmolality; fructofuranosidase; glucoamylase; image analysis; pellets; germination time
24.  Gene Overexpression and Biochemical Characterization of the Biotechnologically Relevant Chlorogenic Acid Hydrolase from Aspergillus niger▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(17):5624-5632.
The full-length gene that encodes the chlorogenic acid hydrolase from Aspergillus niger CIRM BRFM 131 was cloned by PCR based on the genome of the strain A. niger CBS 513.88. The complete gene consists of 1,715 bp and codes for a deduced protein of 512 amino acids with a molecular mass of 55,264 Da and an acidic pI of 4.6. The gene was successfully cloned and overexpressed in A. niger to yield 1.25 g liter−1, i.e., 330-fold higher than the production of wild-type strain A. niger CIRM BRFM131. The histidine-tagged recombinant ChlE protein was purified to homogeneity via a single chromatography step, and its main biochemical properties were characterized. The molecular size of the protein checked by mass spectroscopy was 74,553 Da, suggesting the presence of glycosylation. ChlE is assembled in a tetrameric form with several acidic isoforms with pIs of around 4.55 and 5.2. Other characteristics, such as optimal pH and temperature, were found to be similar to those determined for the previously characterized chlorogenic acid hydrolase of A. niger CIRM BRFM 131. However, there was a significant temperature stability difference in favor of the recombinant protein. ChlE exhibits a catalytic efficiency of 12.5 × 106 M−1 s−1 toward chlorogenic acid (CGA), and its ability to release caffeic acid from CGA present in agricultural by-products such as apple marc and coffee pulp was clearly demonstrated, confirming the high potential of this enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2042068  PMID: 17630312
25.  Aspergillus oryzae-based cell factory for direct kojic acid production from cellulose 
Kojic acid (5-Hydroxy-2-(hydroxymethyl)-4-pyrone) is one of the major secondary metabolites in Aspergillus oryzae. It is widely used in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. The production cost, however, is too high for its use in many applications. Thus, an efficient and cost-effective kojic acid production process would be valuable. However, little is known about the complete set of genes for kojic acid production. Currently, kojic acid is produced from glucose. The efficient production of kojic acid using cellulose as an inexpensive substrate would help establish cost-effective kojic acid production.
A kojic acid transcription factor gene over-expressing the A. oryzae strain was constructed. Three genes related to kojic acid production in this strain were transcribed in higher amounts than those found in the wild-type strain. This strain produced 26.4 g/L kojic acid from 80 g/L glucose. Furthermore, this strain was transformed with plasmid harboring 3 cellulase genes. The resultant A. oryzae strain successfully produced 0.18 g/L of kojic acid in 6 days of fermentation from the phosphoric acid swollen cellulose.
Kojic acid was produced directly from cellulose material using genetically engineered A. oryzae. Because A. oryzae has efficient protein secretion ability and secondary metabolite productivity, an A. oryzae-based cell factory could be a platform for the production of various kinds of bio-based chemicals.
PMCID: PMC4035902  PMID: 24885968
Aspergillus oryzae; Kojic acid; Cellulose; Cellulase; Starch

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