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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Oct;42(1):269-77.

Characterization of nitrogen metabolite signalling in Aspergillus via the regulated degradation of areA mRNA.

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Plant Science and Fungal Molecular Biology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, Donnan Labs, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZD, UK.


AreA is the principal transcription factor involved in determining nitrogen utilization in Aspergillus nidulans. NH4+ and Gln are utilized preferentially but in their absence, AreA acts to facilitate the expression of genes involved in metabolizing alternative nitrogen sources. It is crucial to the function of AreA that its expression is tightly modulated by the quality and availability of nitrogen sources. One signalling mechanism involves regulated degradation of the areA transcript in response to NH4+ and Gln, which provides the first direct means of monitoring nitrogen signalling in this fungus. Here we assess the specificity of the transcript degradation response, determining that it responds qualitatively to a variety of additional nitrogen sources including Asn. Furthermore, the response to Gln and NH4+ requires the same discrete region of the areA 3'-UTR but both NH4+ and Asn need to be metabolized to Gln before they are effective as a signal. However, NH4+ signalling is independent of AreA activity, unlike Gln and Asn signalling. A mutation in the structural gene for NADP-linked glutamate dehydrogenase, gdhA, which disrupts metabolism of NH4+ to Glu, is additive with mutations in two distinct regions of areA that disrupt the previously identified signalling mechanisms. The triple mutant is both strongly derepressed and expresses very high levels of nitrate reductase activity. These data suggest nitrogen metabolism in A. nidulans is in part regulated in response to the intracellular levels of Gln via the regulated degradation of areA mRNA, but the intracellular Gln level is not the sole determinant of nitrogen metabolite repression.

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