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Biochem J. 2002 May 15;364(Pt 1):25-31.

Characteristics of physiological inducers of the ethanol utilization (alc) pathway in Aspergillus nidulans.

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  • 1Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, CNRS UMR 8621, Université Paris-Sud XI, Centre Universitaire d'Orsay, Bâtiment 409, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France.


The ethanol utilization (alc) pathway in Aspergillus nidulans is one of the strongest expressed gene systems in filamentous fungi. The pathway-specific activator AlcR requires the presence of an inducing compound to activate transcription of genes under its control. We have demonstrated recently that acetaldehyde is the sole physiological inducer of ethanol catabolism. In the present study we show that compounds with catabolism related to that of ethanol, i.e. primary alcohols, primary monoamines and l-threonine, act as inducers because their breakdown results in the production of inducing aliphatic aldehydes. Such aldehydes were shown to induce the alc genes efficiently at low external concentrations. When ethanol is mixed with representatives of another class of strong direct inducers, ketones, the physiological inducer, acetaldehyde, prevails as effector. Although direct inducers essentially carry a carbonyl function, not all aldehydes and ketones act as inducers. Structural features discriminating non-inducing from inducing compounds concern: (i) the length of the aliphatic side group(s); (ii) the presence and nature of any non-aliphatic substituent. These characteristics enable us to predict whether or not a given carbonyl compound will induce the alc genes.

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