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Microbiologyopen. 2013 Aug;2(4):595-609. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.94. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Analysis of a conserved cellulase transcriptional regulator reveals inducer-independent production of cellulolytic enzymes in Neurospora crassa.

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Plant and Microbial Biology Department, The University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-3102.


Cellulose is recalcitrant to deconstruction to glucose for use in fermentation strategies for biofuels and chemicals derived from lignocellulose. In Neurospora crassa, the transcriptional regulator, CLR-2, is required for cellulolytic gene expression and cellulose deconstruction. To assess conservation and divergence of cellulase gene regulation between fungi from different ecological niches, we compared clr-2 function with its ortholog (clrB) in the distantly related species, Aspergillus nidulans. Transcriptional profiles induced by exposure to crystalline cellulose were similar in both species. Approximately 50% of the cellulose-responsive genes showed strict dependence on functional clr-2/clrB, with a subset of 28 genes encoding plant biomass degrading enzymes that were conserved between N. crassa and A. nidulans. Importantly, misexpression of clr-2 under noninducing conditions was sufficient to drive cellulase gene expression, secretion, and activity in N. crassa, to a level comparable to wild type exposed to Avicel. However, misexpression of clrB in A. nidulans was not sufficient to drive cellulase gene expression under noninducing conditions, although an increase in cellulase activity was observed under crystalline cellulose conditions. Manipulation of clr-2 orthologs among filamentous fungi may enable regulated cellulosic enzyme production in a wide array of culture conditions and host strains, potentially reducing costs associated with enzyme production for plant cell wall deconstruction. However, this functionality may require additional engineering in some species.


Aspergillus; Neurospora; biofuels; cellulase; transcriptional regulation

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