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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.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation for enhancing citric acid production by Aspergillus niger 
The spore germination rate and growth characteristics were compared between the citric acid high-yield strain Aspergillus niger CGMCC 5751 and A. niger ATCC 1015 in media containing antimycin A or DNP. We inferred that differences in citric acid yield might be due to differences in energy metabolism between these strains. To explore the impact of energy metabolism on citric acid production, the changes in intracellular ATP, NADH and NADH/NAD+ were measured at various fermentation stages. In addition, the effects of antimycin A or DNP on energy metabolism and citric acid production was investigated by CGMCC 5751.
By comparing the spore germination rate and the extent of growth on PDA plates containing antimycin A or DNP, CGMCC 5751 was shown to be more sensitive to antimycin A than ATCC 1015. The substrate-level phosphorylation of CGMCC 5751 was greater than that of ATCC 1015 on PDA plates with DNP. DNP at tested concentrations had no apparent effect on the growth of CGMCC 5751. There were no apparent effects on the mycelial morphology, the growth of mycelial pellets or the dry cell mass when 0.2 mg L-1 antimycin A or 0.1 mg L-1 DNP was added to medium at the 24-h time point. The concentrations of intracellular ATP, NADH and NADH/NAD+ of CGMCC 5751 were notably lower than those of ATCC 1015 at several fermentation stages. Moreover, at 96 h of fermentation, the citric acid production of CGMCC 5751 reached up to 151.67 g L-1 and 135.78 g L-1 by adding 0.2 mg L-1 antimycin A or 0.1 mg L-1 DNP, respectively, at the 24-h time point of fermentation. Thus, the citric acid production of CGMCC 5751 was increased by 19.89% and 7.32%, respectively.
The concentrations of intracellular ATP, NADH and NADH/NAD+ of the citric acid high-yield strain CGMCC 5751 were notably lower than those of ATCC 1015. The excessive ATP has a strong inhibitory effect on citric acid accumulation by A. niger. Increasing NADH oxidation and appropriately reducing the concentration of intracellular ATP can accelerate glycolysis and the TCA cycle to enhance citric acid yield.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-015-0190-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4320542  PMID: 25592678
Citric acid; Aspergillus niger; Oxidative phosphorylation inhibitor; Uncoupler of oxidative phosphorylation; Energy metabolism
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
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.  Integrated isotope-assisted metabolomics and 13C metabolic flux analysis reveals metabolic flux redistribution for high glucoamylase production by Aspergillus niger 
Aspergillus niger is widely used for enzyme production and achievement of high enzyme production depends on the comprehensive understanding of cell’s metabolic regulation mechanisms.
In this paper, we investigate the metabolic differences and regulation mechanisms between a high glucoamylase-producing strain A. niger DS03043 and its wild-type parent strain A. niger CBS513.88 via an integrated isotope-assisted metabolomics and 13C metabolic flux analysis approach. We found that A. niger DS03043 had higher cell growth, glucose uptake, and glucoamylase production rates but lower oxalic acid and citric acid secretion rates. In response to above phenotype changes, A. niger DS03043 was characterized by an increased carbon flux directed to the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway in contrast to reduced flux through TCA cycle, which were confirmed by consistent changes in pool sizes of metabolites. A higher ratio of ATP over AMP in the high producing strain might contribute to the increase in the PP pathway flux as glucosephosphate isomerase was inhibited at higher ATP concentrations. A. niger CBS513.88, however, was in a higher redox state due to the imbalance of NADH regeneration and consumption, resulting in the secretion of oxalic acid and citric acid, as well as the accumulation of intracellular OAA and PEP, which may in turn result in the decrease in the glucose uptake rate.
The application of integrated metabolomics and 13C metabolic flux analysis highlights the regulation mechanisms of energy and redox metabolism on flux redistribution in A. niger. Graphical abstractAn integrated isotope-assisted metabolomics and 13C metabolic flux analysis was was firstly systematically performed in A. niger. In response to enzyme production, the metabolic flux in A. niger DS03043 (high-producing) was redistributed, characterized by an increased carbon flux directed to the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway as well as an increased pool size of pentose. The consistency in 13C metabolic flux analysis and metabolites quantification indicated that an imbalance of NADH formation and consumption led to the accumulation and secretion of organic acids in A. niger CBS513.88 (wild-type)
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-015-0329-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4574132  PMID: 26383080
Aspergillus niger; Glucoamylase; 13C metabolic flux analysis; Metabolomics; Cofactor metabolism
17.  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
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Submerged Conidiation and Product Formation by Aspergillus niger at Low Specific Growth Rates Are Affected in Aerial Developmental Mutants ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(15):5270-5277.
Exposure to an aerial environment or severe nutrient limitation induces asexual differentiation in filamentous fungi. Submerged cultivation of Aspergillus niger in carbon- and energy-limited retentostat cultures both induces and fuels conidiation. Physiological and transcriptomic analyses have revealed that this differentiation strongly affects product formation. Since conidiation is inherent in the aerial environment, we hypothesized that product formation near zero growth can be influenced by affecting differentiation or development of aerial hyphae in general. To investigate this idea, three developmental mutants (ΔfwnA, scl-1, and scl-2 mutants) that have no apparent vegetative growth defects were cultured in maltose-limited retentostat cultures. The secondary-metabolite profile of the wild-type strain defined flavasperone, aurasperone B, tensidol B, and two so far uncharacterized compounds as associated with conidium formation, while fumonisins B2, B4, and B6 were characteristic of early response to nutrient limitation by the vegetative mycelium. The developmental mutants responded differently to the severe substrate limitation, which resulted in distinct profiles of growth and product formation. fwnA encodes the polyketide synthase responsible for melanin biosynthesis during aerial differentiation, and we show that conidial melanin synthesis in submerged retentostat cultures and aurasperone B production are fwnA dependent. The scl-1 and scl-2 strains are two UV mutants generated in the ΔfwnA background that displayed reduced asexual conidiation and formed sclerotium-like structures on agar plates. The reduced conidiation phenotypes of the scl-1 and scl-2 strains are reflected in the retentostat cultivation and are accompanied by elimination or severely reduced accumulation of secondary metabolites and distinctly enhanced accumulation of extracellular protein. This investigation shows that submerged conidiation and product formation of a mitosporic fungus cultured at low specific growth rates can be fundamentally affected by interfering with the genetic program for differentiation of aerial hyphae, opening new perspectives for tailoring industrial performance.
PMCID: PMC3147447  PMID: 21652743
21.  Protein Kinase A Regulates Growth, Sporulation, and Pigment Formation in Aspergillus fumigatus▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(15):4923-4933.
Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic human pathogenic fungus causing severe infections in immunocompromised patients. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) signal transduction plays an important role in virulence. A central component of this signaling cascade is protein kinase A (PKA), which regulates cellular processes by phosphorylation of specific target proteins. Here we describe the generation and analysis of A. fumigatus mutants expressing the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of PKA, pkaC1, under control of an inducible promoter. Strains overexpressing pkaC1 showed high PKA activity, reduced growth, sporulation deficiency, and formation of a dark pigment in the mycelium. These data indicate that cAMP-PKA signaling is involved in the regulation of important processes, such as growth, asexual reproduction, and biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. Furthermore, elevated PKA activity led to increased expression of the pksP gene. The polyketide synthase PksP is an essential enzyme for production of dihydroxynaphthalene-melanin in A. fumigatus and contributes to virulence. Our results suggest that increased pksP expression is responsible for pigment formation in the mycelium. Comparative proteome analysis of the pkaC1-overexpressing strain and the wild-type strain led to the identification of proteins regulated by the cAMP-PKA signal transduction pathway. We showed that elevated PKA activity resulted in activation of stress-associated proteins and of enzymes involved in protein biosynthesis and glucose catabolism. In contrast, proteins which were involved in nucleotide and amino acid biosynthesis were downregulated, as were enzymes involved in catabolism of carbon sources other than glucose.
PMCID: PMC2519360  PMID: 18539819
22.  Expression of the Aspergillus terreus itaconic acid biosynthesis cluster in Aspergillus niger 
Aspergillus terreus is a natural producer of itaconic acid and is currently used to produce itaconic acid on an industrial scale. The metabolic process for itaconic acid biosynthesis is very similar to the production of citric acid in Aspergillus niger. However, a key enzyme in A. niger, cis-aconitate decarboxylase, is missing. The introduction of the A. terreus cadA gene in A. niger exploits the high level of citric acid production (over 200 g per liter) and theoretically can lead to production levels of over 135 g per liter of itaconic acid in A. niger. Given the potential for higher production levels in A. niger, production of itaconic acid in this host was investigated.
Expression of Aspergillus terreus cis-aconitate decarboxylase in Aspergillus niger resulted in the production of a low concentration (0.05 g/L) of itaconic acid. Overexpression of codon-optimized genes for cis-aconitate decarboxylase, a mitochondrial transporter and a plasma membrane transporter in an oxaloacetate hydrolase and glucose oxidase deficient A. niger strain led to highly increased yields and itaconic acid production titers. At these higher production titers, the effect of the mitochondrial and plasma membrane transporters was much more pronounced, with levels being 5–8 times higher than previously described.
Itaconic acid can be produced in A. niger by the introduction of the A. terreus cis-aconitate decarboxylase encoding cadA gene. This results in a low itaconic acid production level, which can be increased by codon-optimization of the cadA gene for A. niger. A second crucial requirement for efficient production of itaconic acid is the expression of the A. terreus mttA gene, encoding a putative mitochondrial transporter. Expression of this transporter results in a twenty-fold increase in the secretion of itaconic acid. Expression of the A. terreus itaconic acid cluster consisting of the cadA gene, the mttA gene and the mfsA gene results in A. niger strains that produce over twenty five-fold higher levels of itaconic acid and show a twenty-fold increase in yield compared to a strain expressing only CadA.
PMCID: PMC3898256  PMID: 24438100
Aspergillus niger; Aspergillus terreus; cis-aconitate decarboxylase cadA; Mitochondrial transporter mttA; Plasma membrane transporter mfsA; Itaconic acid
23.  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
24.  Reappraising the structures and distribution of metabolites from black aspergilli containing uncommon 2-benzyl-4H-pyran-4-one and 2-benzylpyridin-4(1H)-one systems 
Journal of natural products  2011;74(9):1959-1964.
To date, natural products containing 2-benzyl-4H-pyran-4-one and 2-benzylpyridin-4(1H)-one substructures have been encountered in relatively few fungi outside of the black aspergilli clade. While exploring the occurrence of these compounds among Aspergillus spp., it was determined that the structures of the unusual furopyrrols tensidols A and B (5 and 6) and JBIR-86 and JBIR-87 (9 and 10) were incorrect and should be reassigned as 2-benzyl-4H-pyran-4-ones (7, 8, 11e, and 12, respectively). The origin of the unique N-phenyl groups in the 2-benzylpyridin-4(1H)-ones nygerones A and B (1 and 2) was also examined and it was established that N-phenylamides added to the culture medium were suitable substrates for generating these metabolites; however, this phenomenon remained limited to a single fungus in our collection (Aspergillus niger ATCC 1015). A variety of 2-benzyl-4H-pyran-4-ones and 2-benzylpyridin-4(1H)-ones were detected among the black aspergilli, but only pestalamide B (13) was found in all eleven of the tested strains. These metabolites, as well as a group of synthetic analogues demonstrated weak antifungal activity against several Candida strains, Aspergillus flavus, and Aspergillus fumigatus.
PMCID: PMC3179785  PMID: 21854017
25.  Analysis of functional xylanases in xylan degradation by Aspergillus niger E-1 and characterization of the GH family 10 xylanase XynVII 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:447.
Xylanases produced by Aspergillus niger are industrially important and many types of xylanases have been reported. Individual xylanases have been well studied for their enzymatic properties, gene cloning, and heterologous expression. However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between xylanase genes carried on the A. niger genome and xylanases produced by A. niger strains. Therefore, we examined xylanase genes encoded on the genome of A. niger E-1 and xylanases produced in culture. Seven putative xylanase genes, xynI–VII (named in ascending order of the molecular masses of the deduced amino acid sequences), were amplified from the strain E-1 genome using primers designed from the genome sequence of A. niger CBS 513.88 by PCR and phylogenetically classified into three clusters. Additionally, culture supernatant analysis by DE52 anion–exchange column chromatography revealed that this strain produced three xylanases, XynII, XynIII, and XynVII, which were identified by N-terminal amino acid sequencing and MALDI-TOF-MS analyses, in culture when gown in 0.5% xylan medium supplemented with 50 mM succinate. Furthermore, XynVII, the only GH family 10 xylanase in A. niger E-1, was purified and characterized. The purified enzyme showed a single band with a molecular mass of 35 kDa by SDS-PAGE. The highest activity of purified XynVII was observed at 55°C and pH 5.5. The enzyme was stable in the broad pH range of 3–10 and up to 60°C and was resistant to most metal ions and modifying regents. XynVII showed high specificity against beechwood xylan with Km and Vmax values of 2.8 mg mL–1 and 127 μmol min–1mg–1, respectively. TLC and MALDI-TOF-MS analyses showed that the final hydrolyzed products of the enzyme from beechwood xylan were xylose, xylobiose, and xylotriose substituted with a 4-o-metylglucuronic acid residue.
PMCID: PMC3786065  PMID: 24083101
Aspergillus niger; Endo-β-1,4-xylanase; Glycoside hydrolase family 10; Xylan degradation

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