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Eukaryot Cell. 2007 Jul;6(7):1210-8. Epub 2007 May 4.

The Fusarium verticillioides FUM gene cluster encodes a Zn(II)2Cys6 protein that affects FUM gene expression and fumonisin production.

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Mycotoxin Research Group, USDA/ARS, 1815 N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604, USA.


Fumonisins are mycotoxins produced by some Fusarium species and can contaminate maize or maize products. Ingestion of fumonisins is associated with diseases, including cancer and neural tube defects, in humans and animals. In fungi, genes involved in the synthesis of mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites are often located adjacent to each other in gene clusters. Such genes can encode structural enzymes, regulatory proteins, and/or proteins that provide self-protection. The fumonisin biosynthetic gene cluster includes 16 genes, none of which appear to play a role in regulation. In this study, we identified a previously undescribed gene (FUM21) located adjacent to the fumonisin polyketide synthase gene, FUM1. The presence of a Zn(II)2Cys6 DNA-binding domain in the predicted protein suggested that FUM21 was involved in transcriptional regulation. FUM21 deletion (Deltafum21) mutants produce little to no fumonisin in cracked maize cultures but some FUM1 and FUM8 transcripts in a liquid GYAM medium. Complementation of a Deltafum21 mutant with a wild-type copy of the gene restored fumonisin production. Analysis of FUM21 cDNAs identified four alternative splice forms (ASFs), and microarray analysis indicated the ASFs were differentially expressed. Based on these data, we present a model for how FUM21 ASFs may regulate fumonisin biosynthesis.

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