Transcriptome Analysis of Aspergillus flavus Reveals veA-Dependent Regulation of Secondary Metabolite Gene Clusters, Including the Novel Aflavarin Cluster
Cary JW, Han Z, Yin Y, Lohmar JM, Shantappa S, Harris-Coward PY, Mack B, Ehrlich KC, Wei Q, Arroyo-Manzanares N, Uka V, Vanhaecke L, Bhatnagar D, Yu J, Nierman WC, Johns MA, Sorensen D, Shen H, De Saeger S, Diana Di Mavungu J, Calvo AM
The global regulatory veA gene governs development and secondary metabolism in numerous fungal species, including Aspergillus flavus. This is especially relevant since A. flavus infects crops of agricultural importance worldwide, contaminating them with potent mycotoxins. The most well-known are aflatoxins, which are cytotoxic and carcinogenic polyketide compounds. The production of aflatoxins and the expression of genes implicated in the production of these mycotoxins are veA dependent. The genes responsible for the synthesis of aflatoxins are clustered, a signature common for genes involved in fungal secondary metabolism. Studies of the A. flavus genome revealed many gene clusters possibly connected to the synthesis of secondary metabolites. Many of these metabolites are still unknown, or the association between a known metabolite and a particular gene cluster has not yet been established. In the present transcriptome study, we show that veA is necessary for the expression of a large number of genes. Twenty-eight out of the predicted 56 secondary metabolite gene clusters include at least one gene that is differentially expressed depending on presence or absence of veA. One of the clusters under the influence of veA is cluster 39. The absence of veA results in a downregulation of the five genes found within this cluster. Interestingly, our results indicate that the cluster is expressed mainly in sclerotia. Chemical analysis of sclerotial extracts revealed that cluster 39 is responsible for the production of aflavarin.