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FEBS J. 2005 Jul;272(14):3615-30.

Methylcitrate synthase from Aspergillus fumigatus. Propionyl-CoA affects polyketide synthesis, growth and morphology of conidia.

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  • 1Institute of Microbiology, University of Hannover, Germany.


Methylcitrate synthase is a key enzyme of the methylcitrate cycle and required for fungal propionate degradation. Propionate not only serves as a carbon source, but also acts as a food preservative (E280-283) and possesses a negative effect on polyketide synthesis. To investigate propionate metabolism from the opportunistic human pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, methylcitrate synthase was purified to homogeneity and characterized. The purified enzyme displayed both, citrate and methylcitrate synthase activity and showed similar characteristics to the corresponding enzyme from Aspergillus nidulans. The coding region of the A. fumigatus enzyme was identified and a deletion strain was constructed for phenotypic analysis. The deletion resulted in an inability to grow on propionate as the sole carbon source. A strong reduction of growth rate and spore colour formation on media containing both, glucose and propionate was observed, which was coincident with an accumulation of propionyl-CoA. Similarly, the use of valine, isoleucine and methionine as nitrogen sources, which yield propionyl-CoA upon degradation, inhibited growth and polyketide production. These effects are due to a direct inhibition of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex and blockage of polyketide synthesis by propionyl-CoA. The surface of conidia was studied by electron scanning microscopy and revealed a correlation between spore colour and ornamentation of the conidial surface. In addition, a methylcitrate synthase deletion led to an attenuation of virulence, when tested in an insect infection model and attenuation was even more pronounced, when whitish conidia from glucose/propionate medium were applied. Therefore, an impact of methylcitrate synthase in the infection process is discussed.

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