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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Nov;96(3):773-81. doi: 10.1007/s00253-012-4065-5. Epub 2012 Apr 28.

γ-Heptalactone is an endogenously produced quorum-sensing molecule regulating growth and secondary metabolite production by Aspergillus nidulans.

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Cell Communication Research Group, Department of Molecular & Applied Biosciences, University of Westminster, London, W1W 6UW, UK.


Microbes monitor their population density through a mechanism termed quorum sensing. It is believed that quorum-sensing molecules diffuse from the microbial cells and circulate in the surrounding environment as a function of cell density. When these molecules reach a threshold concentration, the gene expression of the entire population is altered in a coordinated manner. This work provides evidence that Aspergillus nidulans produces at least one small diffusible molecule during its growth cycle which accumulates at high cell density and alters the organism's behaviour. When added to low-density cell cultures, ethyl acetate extracts from stationary phase culture supernatants of A. nidulans resulted in the abolition of the lag phase, induced an earlier deceleration phase with 16.3 % decrease in the final cell dry weight and resulted in a 37.8 % increase in the expression of ipnA::lacZ reporter gene construct, which was used as a marker for penicillin production compared to non-treated controls. The bioactive molecule present in the stationary phase extract was purified to homogeneity and was identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to be γ-heptalactone. This study provides the first evidence that A. nidulans produces γ-heptalactone at a high cell density and it can alter the organism's behaviour at a low cell density. γ-Heptalactone hence acts as a quorum-sensing molecule in the producing strain.

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