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Mol Genet Genomics. 2018 Dec;293(6):1507-1522. doi: 10.1007/s00438-018-1474-x. Epub 2018 Aug 11.

Biocontrol strain Aspergillus flavus WRRL 1519 has differences in chromosomal organization and an increased number of transposon-like elements compared to other strains.

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Department of Plant Biology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA.
New Mexico Consortium and Pebble Labs Inc., Los Alamos, NM, 87544, USA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, ARS Western Regional Research Center, Albany, CA, 94710, USA.


Aflatoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by members of the genus Aspergillus, most notably A. flavus. Non-aflatoxigenic strains of A. flavus are commonly used for biocontrol of the aflatoxigenic strains to reduce aflatoxins in corn, cotton, peanuts and tree nuts. However, genomic differences between aflatoxigenic strains and non-aflatoxigenic strains have not been reported in detail, though such differences may further elucidate the evolutionary histories of certain biocontrol strains and help guide development of other useful strains. We recently reported the genome and transcriptome sequencing of A. flavus WRRL 1519, a strain isolated from almond that does not produce aflatoxins or cyclopiazonic acid due to deletions in the biosynthetic gene clusters. Continued bioinformatics analyses focused on comparing strain WRRL 1519 to the aflatoxigenic strain NRRL 3357. The genome assembly of strain WRRL 1519 was improved by anchoring 84 of the 127 scaffolds to the putative nuclear chromosomes of strain NRRL 3357. The five largest areas of extrachromosomal mismatches observed between WRRL 1519 and NRRL 3357 were not similar to any of the mismatches that were observed with pairwise comparisons of NRRL 3357 to other non-aflatoxigenic strains NRRL 21882, NRRL 30797 or NRRL 18543. Comparisons of predicted secondary metabolite gene clusters uncovered two other biosynthetic gene clusters in which strain WRRL 1519 had large deletions compared to the homologous clusters in NRRL 3357. Additionally, there was a marked overrepresentation of repetitive sequences in WRRL 1519 compared to other inspected A. flavus strains. This is the first report of detection of a large number of putative retrotransposons in any A. flavus strain, initially suggesting that retrotransposons may contribute to the natural occurrence of genetic variation and biocontrol strains. However, the transposons may not be significantly associated with the chromosomal differences. Future experimentation and continued bioinformatics analyses will potentially illuminate causes of the differences and may reveal whether transposon activity in A. flavus can lead to random natural occurrences of non-aflatoxigenic strains.


Aspergillus flavus; Biocontrol; Genome alignment; Repetitive sequence; Retrotransposon

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