A perplexing aspect of fungal secondary metabolite gene clusters is that most clusters remain ‘silent’ under common laboratory growth conditions where activation is obtained through gene manipulation or encounters with environmental signals. Few proteins have been found involved in repression of silent clusters. Through multicopy suppressor mutagenesis, we have identified a novel cluster suppressor in Aspergillus nidulans, MvlA (modulator of veA
loss). Genetic assessment of MvlA mutants revealed the role of both itself and VeA (but not the VeA partner LaeA) in the suppression of the cryptic ors gene cluster producing orsellinic acid and its F9775 derivatives. Loss of veA upregulates F9775A and F9775B production and this increase is reduced 4~5 fold when an overexpression mvlA (OE::mvlA) allele is introduced into the ΔveA background. Previous studies have implicated a positive role for GcnE (H3K9 acetyltransferase of the SAGA/ADA complex) in ors cluster expression and here we find expression of gcnE is upregulated in ΔveA and suppressed by OE::mvlA in the ΔveA background. H3K9 acetylation levels of ors cluster genes correlated with gcnE expression and F9775 production in ΔveA and OE::mvlAΔveA strains. Finally, deletion of gcnE in the ΔveA background abolishes ors cluster activation and F9775 production. Together, this work supports a role for VeA and MvlA in modifying SAGA/ADA complex activity.
LaeA; Velvet Complex; F9775A; Urc4; suppressor; CclA; SAGA/ADA
Norsolorinic acid, isolated from the Aspergillus nidulans, was investigated for its anti-proliferative activity in human breast adenocarcinoma MCF-7 cells. To identity the anticancer mechanism of norsolorinic acid, we assayed its effect on apoptosis, cell cycle distribution, and levels of p53, p21/WAF1, Fas/APO-1 receptor, and Fas ligand. The results showed that norsolorinic acid induced apoptosis of MCF-7 cells without mediation of p53 and p21/WAF1. We suggest that Fas/Fas ligand apoptotic system is the main pathway of norsolorinic acid-mediated apoptosis of MCF-7 cells. Our study reports here for the first time that the activity of the Fas/Fas ligand apoptotic system may participate in the anti-proliferative activity of norsolorinic acid in MCF-7 cells.
norsolorinic acid; breast cancer; p53; Fas/APO-1; Fas ligand; apoptosis
Genome sequencing has revealed that fungi have the ability to synthesize many more natural products (NPs) than are currently known, but methods for obtaining suitable expression of NPs have been inadequate. We have developed a successful strategy that bypasses normal regulatory mechanisms. By efficient gene targeting, we have replaced, en masse, the promoters of non-reducing polyketide synthase (NR-PKS) genes, key genes in NP biosynthetic pathways and other genes necessary for NR-PKS product formation or release. This has allowed us to determine the products of eight NR-PKSs of A. nidulans, including seven novel compounds, as well as the NR-PKS genes required for the synthesis of the toxins, alternariol (8) and cichorine (19).
Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) undergo myofibroblastic trans-differentiation (activation) to participate in liver fibrosis, and identification of molecular targets for this cell fate regulation is essential for development of efficacious therapeutic modalities for the disease. Peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) is required for differentiation of HSCs and its epigenetic repression underlies HSC activation. The herbal prescription Yang-Gan-Wan (YGW) prevents liver fibrosis, but its active ingredients and molecular mechanisms are unknown. Here we demonstrate YGW prevents and reverses HSC activation via epigenetic de-repression of Pparγ involving reductions in MeCP2 expression and its recruitment to Pparγ promoter, suppressed expression of PRC2 methyltrasferase EZH2 and consequent reduction of H2K27di-methylation at the 3’ exon. HPLC/MS and NMR analyses identify polyphenolic rosmarinic acid (RA) and baicalin (BC) as active phytocompounds. RA and BC suppress the expression and signaling by canonical Wnts, which are implicated in the aforementioned Pparγ epigenetic repression. RA treatment in mice with existing cholestatic liver fibrosis inhibits HSC activation and progression of liver fibrosis. In conclusion, these results demonstrate a therapeutic potential of YGW and its active component RA and BC for liver fibrosis via Pparγ de-repression mediated by suppression of canonical Wnt signaling in HSCs.
liver fibrosis; MeCP2; EZH2; Wnt; H3K27-methylation
Meroterpenoids are a class of fungal natural products that are produced from polyketide and terpenoid precursors. An understanding of meroterpenoid biosynthesis at the genetic level should facilitate engineering of second-generation molecules and increasing production of first-generation compounds. The filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans has previously been found to produce two meroterpenoids, austinol and dehydroaustinol. Using targeted deletions that we created, we have determined that, surprisingly, two separate gene clusters are required for meroterpenoid biosynthesis. One is a cluster of four genes including a polyketide synthase gene, ausA. The second is a cluster of ten additional genes including a prenyltransferase gene, ausN, located on a separate chromosome. Chemical analysis of mutant extracts enabled us to isolate 3,5-dimethylorsellinic acid and ten additional meroterpenoids that are either intermediates or shunt products from the biosynthetic pathway. Six of them were identified as novel meroterpenoids in this study. Our data, in aggregate, allow us to propose a complete biosynthetic pathway for the A. nidulans meroterpenoids.
The eukaryotic bZIP transcription factors are critical players in organismal response to environmental challenges. In fungi, the production of secondary metabolites (SMs) is hypothesized as one of the responses to environmental insults, e.g. attack by fungivorous insects, yet little data to support this hypothesis exists. Here we establish a mechanism of bZIP regulation of SMs through RsmA, a recently discovered YAP-like bZIP protein. RsmA greatly increases SM production by binding to two sites in the A. nidulans AflR promoter region, a C6 transcription factor known for activating production of the carcinogenic and anti-predation SM, sterigmatocystin (ST). Deletion of aflR in an overexpression rsmA (OE::rsmA) background not only eliminates ST production but also significantly reduces asperthecin synthesis. Furthermore, the fungivore, Folsomia candida, exhibited a distinct preference for feeding on wild type rather than an OE::rsmA strain. RsmA may thus have a critical function in mediating direct chemical resistance against predation. Taken together, these results suggest RsmA represents a bZIP pathway hardwired for defensive SM production.
sterigmatocystin; asperthecin; fungivory; Yap; rsmA
Sclerotiorin, an azaphilone polyketide, is a bioactive natural product known to inhibit 15-lipoxygenase and many other biological targets. To readily access sclerotiorin and analogs, we developed a 2–3 step semisynthetic route to produce a variety of azaphilones starting from an advanced, putative azaphilone intermediate (5) over-produced by an engineered strain of Aspergillus nidulans. The inhibitory activities of the semisynthetic azaphilones against 15-lipoxygenase were evaluated with several compounds displaying low micromolar potency.
Regulation of secondary metabolite (SM) gene clusters in Aspergillus nidulans has been shown to occur through cluster specific transcription factors or through global regulators of chromatin structure such as histone methyltransferases, histone deacetylases, or the putative methyltransferase LaeA. A multi-copy suppressor screen for genes capable of returning SM production to the SM deficient ΔlaeA mutant resulted in identification of the essential histone acetyltransferase EsaA, able to complement an esa1 deletion in Saccharomyces cereviseae. Here we report that EsaA plays a novel role in SM cluster activation through histone 4 lysine 12 (H4K12) acetylation in four examined SM gene clusters (sterigmatocystin, penicillin, terrequinone, and orsellinic acid), in contrast to no increase in H4K12 acetylation of the housekeeping tubA promoter. This augmented SM cluster acetylation requires LaeA for full effect and correlates with both increased transcript levels and metabolite production relative to wild type. H4K12 levels may thus represent a unique indicator of relative production potential, notably of SMs.
A StcA-AfoE hybrid PKS, generated from swapping the AfoE (asperfuranone biosynthesis) SAT domain with the StcA (sterigmatocystin biosynthesis) SAT domian, produced a major new metabolite with the same chain length as the native AfoE product. Structure elucidation allowed us to propose a likely pathway and feeding studies supported the hypothesis that the chain length of PKS metabolites may be under precise control of KS and PT domains.
The genome sequencing of the fungus Aspergillus niger uncovered a large cache of genes encoding enzymes thought to be involved in the production of secondary metabolites yet to be identified. Identification and structural characterization of many of these predicted secondary metabolites are hampered by their low concentration relative to the known A. niger metabolites such as the naphtho-γ-pyrone family of polyketides. We deleted a nonreducing PKS gene in A. niger strain ATCC 11414, a daughter strain of A. niger ATCC strain 1015 whose genome was sequenced by the DOE Joint Genome Institute. This PKS encoding gene we name albA is a predicted ortholog of alb1 from Aspergillus fumigatus which is responsible for production of the naphtho-γ-pyrone precursor for the 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) melanin/spore pigment. Our results show that the A. nigeralbA PKS is responsible for both the production of the spore pigment precursor and a family of naphtho-γ-pyrones commonly found in significant quantity in A. niger culture extracts. The generation of an A. niger strain devoid of naphtho-γ-pyrones will greatly facilitate the elucidation of cryptic biosynthetic pathways in this organism.
Secondary Metabolism; Aspergillus niger; Natural Products; Genomics; Naphtho-γ-pyrone; Polyketides
Xanthones are a class of molecules that bind to a number of drug targets and possess a myriad of biological properties. An understanding of xanthone biosynthesis at the genetic level should facilitate engineering of second-generation molecules and increasing production of first-generation compounds. The filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans has been found to produce two prenylated xanthones, shamixanthone and emericellin, and we report the discovery of two more, variecoxanthone A and epishamixanthone. Using targeted deletions that we created, we determined that a cluster of 10 genes including a polyketide synthase gene, mdpG, is required for prenyl xanthone biosynthesis. mdpG was shown to be required for the synthesis of the anthraquinone emodin, monodictyphenone, and related compounds, and our data indicate that emodin and monodictyphenone are precursors of prenyl xanthones. Isolation of intermediate compounds from the deletion strains provided valuable clues as to the biosynthetic pathway, but no genes accounting for the prenylations were located within the cluster. To find the genes responsible for prenylation, we identified and deleted seven putative prenyltransferases in the A. nidulans genome. We found that two prenyltransferase genes, distant from the cluster, were necessary for prenyl xanthone synthesis. These genes belong to the fungal indole prenyltransferase family that had previously been shown to be responsible for the prenylation of amino acid derivatives. In addition, another prenyl xanthone biosynthesis gene is proximal to one of the prenyltransferase genes. Our data, in aggregate, allow us to propose a complete biosynthetic pathway for the A. nidulans xanthones.
Secondary metabolites from microorganisms have a broad spectrum of applications, particularly in therapeutics. The growing number of sequenced microbial genomes has revealed a remarkably large number of natural product biosynthetic clusters for which the products are still unknown. These cryptic clusters are potentially a treasure house of medically useful compounds. The recent development of new methodologies has made it possible to begin unlock this treasure house, to discover new natural products and determine their biosynthesis pathways. This review will highlight some of the most recent strategies to activate silent biosynthetic gene clusters and to elucidate of their corresponding products and pathways.
Asperfuranone, a novel compound of genomic mining in Aspergillus nidulans, was investigated for its anti-proliferative activity in human non-small cell lung cancer A549 cells. To identity the anti-cancer mechanism of asperfuranone, we assayed its effect on apoptosis, cell cycle distribution, and levels of p53, p21 Waf1/Cip1, Fas/APO-1 receptor and Fas ligand. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay showed that the G0/G1 phase arrest might be due to p53-dependent induction of p21 Waf1/Cip1. An enhancement in Fas/APO-1 and its two form ligands, membrane-bound Fas ligand (mFasL) and soluble Fas ligand (sFasL), might be responsible for the apoptotic effect induced by asperfuranone. Our study reports here for the first time that the induction of p53 and the activity of Fas/Fas ligand apoptotic system may participate in the anti-proliferative activity of asperfuranone in A549 cells.
Aspergillus species have the ability to produce a wide range of secondary metabolites including polyketides that are generated by multi-domain polyketide synthases (PKSs). Recent biochemical studies using dissected single or multiple domains from PKSs have provided deep insight into how these PKSs control the structural outcome. Moreover, the recent genome sequencing of several species has greatly facilitated the understanding of the biosynthetic pathways for these secondary metabolites. In this review, we will highlight the current knowledge regarding polyketide biosynthesis in Aspergillus based on the domain architecture of non-reducing, highly reducing, and partially reducing PKSs, and PKS-non-ribosomal peptide synthetases.
Secondary metabolites; Fungi; Polyketide; Nonribosomal peptides
Recent published sequencing of fungal genomes has revealed that these microorganisms have a surprisingly large number of secondary metabolite pathways that can serve as potential sources for new and useful natural products. Most of the secondary metabolites and their biosynthesis pathways are currently unknown, possibly because they are produced in very small amounts and are thus difficult to detect or are produced only under specific conditions. Elucidating these fungal metabolites will require new molecular genetic tools, better understanding of the regulation of secondary metabolism, and state of the art analytical methods. This review describes recent strategies to mine the cryptic natural products and their biosynthetic pathways in fungi.
natural products biosynthesis; genomic mining; polyketide synthase; nonribosomal peptide synthetase
F-9775A and F-9775B are cathepsin K inhibitors that arise from a chromatin remodelling deletant strain of Aspergillus nidulans. A polyketide synthase gene has been determined to be responsible for their formation and for the simpler, archetypical polyketide orsellinic acid. We have discovered simple culture conditions that result in the production of the three compounds, and this facilitates analysis of the genes responsible for their synthesis. We have now analysed the F9775/orsellinic acid gene cluster using a set of targeted deletions. We find that the polyketide synthase alone is required for orsellinic acid biosynthesis and only two additional genes in the cluster are required for F9775 A and B synthesis. Our deletions also yielded the bioactive metabolites gerfelin and diorcinol.
Deletion of cclA, a component of the COMPASS complex of Aspergillus nidulans, results in the production of monodictyphenone and emodin derivatives. Through a set of targeted deletions in a cclA deletion strain, we have identified the genes required for monodictyphenone and emodin analog biosynthesis. Identification of an intermediate, endocrocin, from an mdpHΔ strain suggests that mdpH might encode a decarboxylase. Furthermore, by replacing the promoter of mdpA (a putative aflJ homolog) and mdpE (a putative aflR homolog) with the inducible alcA promoter, we have confirmed that MdpA functions as a coactivator. We propose a biosynthetic pathway for monodictyphenone and emodin derivatives based on bioinformatic analysis and characterization of biosynthetic intermediates.
Loss-of-function Aspergillus nidulans CclA, a Bre2 ortholog involved in histone 3 lysine 4 methylation, activated the expression of cryptic secondary metabolite (SM) clusters in A. nidulans. One novel cluster generated monodictyphenone, emodin and emodin derivatives while a second encoded two anti-osteoporosis polyketides, F9775A and F9775B. Modification of the chromatin landscape in fungal SM clusters allows for a simple technological means to express silent fungal secondary metabolite gene clusters.
The genome sequencing of Aspergillus species including A. nidulans reveals that the products of many of the secondary metabolism pathways in these fungi have not been elucidated. Our examination of the 27 polyketide synthases (PKS) in A. nidulans revealed that one highly reduced PKS (HR-PKS, AN1034.3) and one non-reduced PKS (NR-PKS, AN1036.3) are located next to each other in the genome. Since no known A. nidulans secondary metabolites could be produced by two PKS enzymes, we hypothesized that this cryptic gene cluster produces an unknown natural product. Indeed after numerous attempts we found that the products from this cluster could not be detected under normal laboratory culture conditions in wild type strains. Closer examination of the gene cluster revealed a gene with high homology to a citrinin biosynthesis transcriptional activator (CtnR, 32% identity/47% similarity), a fungal transcription activator located next to the two PKSs. We replaced the promoter of the transcription activator with the inducible alcA promoter, which enabled the production of a novel polyketide that we have named asperfuranone. A series of gene deletions has allowed us to confirm that the two PKSs together with five additional genes comprise the asperfuranone biosynthetic pathway and leads us to propose a biosynthetic pathway for asperfuranone. Our results confirm and substantiate the potential to discover novel compounds even from a well-studied fungus by using a genomic mining approach.
The recently sequenced genomes of several Aspergillus species have revealed that these organisms have the potential to produce a surprisingly large range of natural products, many of which are currently unknown. We have found that A. nidulans produces emericellamide A, an antibiotic compound of mixed origins with polyketide and amino acid building blocks. Additionally, we describe the discovery of four previously unidentified, related compounds that we designate emericellamide C-F. Using recently developed gene targeting techniques, we have identified the genes involved in emericellamide biosynthesis. The emericellamide gene cluster contains one polyketide synthase and one nonribosomal peptide synthetase. From the sequences of the genes, we are able to deduce a biosynthetic pathway for the emericellamides. The identification of this biosynthetic pathway opens the door to engineering novel analogs of this structurally complex metabolite.
The sequencing of Aspergillus genomes has revealed that the products of a large number of secondary metabolism pathways have not yet been identified. This is probably because many secondary metabolite gene clusters are not expressed under normal laboratory culture conditions. It is, therefore, important to discover conditions or regulatory factors that can induce the expression of these genes. We report that the deletion of sumO, the gene that encodes the small ubiquitin-like protein SUMO in A. nidulans, caused a dramatic increase in the production of the secondary metabolite asperthecin and a decrease in the synthesis of austinol/dehydroaustinol and sterigmatocystin. The overproduction of asperthecin in the sumO deletion mutant has allowed us, through a series of targeted deletions, to identify the genes required for asperthecin synthesis. The asperthecin biosynthesis genes are clustered and include genes encoding an iterative type I polyketide synthase, a hydrolase, and a monooxygenase. The identification of these genes allows us to propose a biosynthetic pathway for asperthecin.