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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Nov;38(3):658-65.

G-protein signalling mediates differential production of toxic secondary metabolites.

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Departments of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2132, USA.


Filamentous fungi elaborate a complex array of secondary metabolites, including antibiotics and mycotoxins. As many of these compounds pose significant economic and health concerns, elucidation of the underlying cellular mechanisms that control their production is essential. Previous work revealed that synthesis of the carcinogenic mycotoxins sterigmatocystin (ST) and aflatoxin (AF) in Aspergillus species is negatively controlled by FadA, the alpha-subunit of a heterotrimeric G-protein. In sharp contrast, we show here that the dominant activating fadA allele, fadAG42R, stimulates transcription of a gene from the A. nidulans penicillin (PN) gene cluster and elevates penicillin production. Thus, FadA has opposite roles in regulating the biosynthesis of a potent antibiotic (PN) and a lethal mycotoxin (ST) in A. nidulans. Furthermore, expression of fadAG42R in Fusarium sporotrichioides increases trichothecene (TR) mycotoxin production and alters TR gene expression. Our findings reveal that a G-protein defines an important control point for differential expression of fungal secondary metabolites within and across fungal genera. These data provide critical evidence suggesting that targeting G-protein signal transduction pathways as a means of controlling or preventing the production of a single mycotoxin could have serious undesirable consequences with regard to the production of other secondary metabolites.

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