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mBio. 2014 Oct 14;5(5):e01501-14. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01501-14.

Global survey of canonical Aspergillus flavus G protein-coupled receptors.

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Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are transmembrane receptors that relay signals from the external environment inside the cell, allowing an organism to adapt to its surroundings. They are known to detect a vast array of ligands, including sugars, amino acids, pheromone peptides, nitrogen sources, oxylipins, and light. Despite their prevalence in fungal genomes, very little is known about the functions of filamentous fungal GPCRs. Here we present the first full-genome assessment of fungal GPCRs through characterization of null mutants of all 15 GPCRs encoded by the aflatoxin-producing fungus Aspergillus flavus. All strains were assessed for growth, development, ability to produce aflatoxin, and response to carbon sources, nitrogen sources, stress agents, and lipids. Most GPCR mutants were aberrant in one or more response processes, possibly indicative of cross talk in downstream signaling pathways. Interestingly, the biological defects of the mutants did not correspond with assignment to established GPCR classes; this is likely due to the paucity of data for characterized fungal GPCRs. Many of the GPCR transcripts were differentially regulated under various conditions as well. The data presented here provide an extensive overview of the full set of GPCRs encoded by A. flavus and provide a framework for analysis in other fungal species. Importance: Aspergillus flavus is an opportunistic pathogen of crops and animals, including humans, and it produces a carcinogenic toxin called aflatoxin. Because of this, A. flavus accounts for food shortages and economic losses in addition to sickness and death. Effective means of combating this pathogen are needed to mitigate its deleterious effects. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are often used as therapeutic targets due to their signal specificity, and it is estimated that half of all drugs target GPCRs. In fungi such as A. flavus, GPCRs are likely necessary for sensing the changes in the environment, including food sources, developmental signals, stress agents, and signals from other organisms. Therefore, elucidating their functions in A. flavus could identify ideal receptors against which to develop antagonists.

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