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Brief Funct Genomics. 2014 Nov;13(6):482-92. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elu026. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

Genome mining and functional genomics for siderophore production in Aspergillus niger.


Iron is an essential metal for many organisms, but the biologically relevant form of iron is scarce because of rapid oxidation resulting in low solubility. Simultaneously, excessive accumulation of iron is toxic. Consequently, iron uptake is a highly controlled process. In most fungal species, siderophores play a central role in iron handling. Siderophores are small iron-specific chelators that can be secreted to scavenge environmental iron or bind intracellular iron with high affinity. A second high-affinity iron uptake mechanism is reductive iron assimilation (RIA). As shown in Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus nidulans, synthesis of siderophores in Aspergilli is predominantly under control of the transcription factors SreA and HapX, which are connected by a negative transcriptional feedback loop. Abolishing this fine-tuned regulation corroborates iron homeostasis, including heme biosynthesis, which could be biotechnologically of interest, e.g. the heterologous production of heme-dependent peroxidases. Aspergillus niger genome inspection identified orthologues of several genes relevant for RIA and siderophore metabolism, as well as sreA and hapX. Interestingly, genes related to synthesis of the common fungal extracellular siderophore triacetylfusarinine C were absent. Reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) confirmed the absence of triacetylfusarinine C, and demonstrated that the major secreted siderophores of A. niger are coprogen B and ferrichrome, which is also the dominant intracellular siderophore. In A. niger wild type grown under iron-replete conditions, the expression of genes involved in coprogen biosynthesis and RIA was low in the exponential growth phase but significantly induced during ascospore germination. Deletion of sreA in A. niger resulted in elevated iron uptake and increased cellular ferrichrome accumulation. Increased sensitivity toward phleomycin and high iron concentration reflected the toxic effects of excessive iron uptake. Moreover, SreA-deficiency resulted in increased accumulation of heme intermediates, but no significant increase in heme content. Together with the upregulation of several heme biosynthesis genes, these results reveal a complex heme regulatory mechanism.


Aspergillus; SreA; heme biosynthesis; iron; siderophore; transciptome analysis

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