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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2014 Oct;98(19):8253-65. doi: 10.1007/s00253-014-5876-3. Epub 2014 Jun 17.

Calcineurin modulates growth, stress tolerance, and virulence in Metarhizium acridum and its regulatory network.

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School of Life Sciences, Chongqing University, Chongqing, 400030, People's Republic of China,


Calcineurin is highly conserved and regulates growth, conidiation, stress response, and pathogenicity in fungi. However, the functions of calcineurin and its regulatory network in entomopathogenic fungi are not clear. In this study, calcineurin was functionally analyzed by deleting the catalytic subunit MaCnA from the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium acridum. The ΔMaCnA mutant had aberrant, compact colonies and blunt, shortened hyphae. Conidia production was reduced, and phialide differentiation into conidiogenous cells was impaired in the ΔMaCnA mutant. ΔMaCnA had thinner cell walls and greatly reduced chitin and β-1,3-glucan content compared to the wild type. The ΔMaCnA mutant was more tolerant to cell wall-perturbing agents and elevated or decreased exogenous calcium but less tolerant to heat, ultraviolet irradiation, and caspofungin than the wild type. Bioassays showed that ΔMaCnA had decreased virulence. Digital gene expression profiling revealed that genes involved in cell wall construction, conidiation, stress tolerance, cell cycle control, and calcium transport were downregulated in ΔMaCnA. Calcineurin affected some components of small G proteins, mitogen-activated protein kinase, and cyclic AMP (cAMP)-protein kinase A signaling pathways in M. acridum. In conclusion, our results gave a global survey of the genes downstream of calcineurin in M. acridum, providing molecular explanations for the changes in phenotypes observed when calcineurin was deleted.

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