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Fungal Genet Biol. 2012 Feb;49(2):141-51. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

The veA gene of the pine needle pathogen Dothistroma septosporum regulates sporulation and secondary metabolism.

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Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Fungi possess genetic systems to regulate the expression of genes involved in complex processes such as development and secondary metabolite biosynthesis. The product of the velvet gene veA, first identified and characterized in Aspergillus nidulans, is a key player in the regulation of both of these processes. Since its discovery and characterization in many Aspergillus species, VeA has been found to have similar functions in other fungi, including the Dothideomycete Mycosphaerella graminicola. Another Dothideomycete, Dothistroma septosporum, is a pine needle pathogen that produces dothistromin, a polyketide toxin very closely related to aflatoxin (AF) and sterigmatocystin (ST) synthesized by Aspergillus spp. Dothistromin is unusual in that, unlike most other secondary metabolites, it is produced mainly during the early exponential growth phase in culture. It was therefore of interest to determine whether the regulation of dothistromin production in D. septosporum differs from the regulation of AF/ST in Aspergillus spp. To begin to address this question, a veA ortholog was identified and its function analyzed in D. septosporum. Inactivation of the veA gene resulted in reduced dothistromin production and a corresponding decrease in expression of dothistromin biosynthetic genes. Expression of other putative secondary metabolite genes in D. septosporum such as polyketide synthases and non-ribosomal peptide synthases showed a range of different responses to loss of Ds-veA. Asexual sporulation was also significantly reduced in the mutants, accompanied by a reduction in the expression of a putative stuA regulatory gene. The mutants were, however, able to infect Pinus radiata seedlings and complete their life cycle under laboratory conditions. Overall this work suggests that D. septosporum has a veA ortholog that is involved in the control of both developmental and secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways.

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