Galactofuranose biosynthesis is important for maintaining normal growth and cell wall properties in Aspergillus nidulans
Alam, Md Kausar
The cell wall is essential for fungal survival in natural environments. Galactofuranose (Galf) decorates certain carbohydrates and lipids of Aspergillus cell wall, is absent in humans and appears to play a role in fungal cell wall maturation. Previous studies in our lab showed that deletion of any of three sequential-acting genes (ugeA, ugmA, and ugtA) of Galf pathway caused substantially reduced growth and spore production. Two genes upstream of the Galf pathway, galD and galE are essential for galactose metabolism in many systems including the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Interestingly, characterization of galD and galE in A. nidulans using cell and molecular techniques showed that unlike yeast, neither of these genes was essential for growth at physiological pH 7.5. Nevertheless for each case, their expressions were up-regulated by growth on galactose, revealing the relative complexity of galactose metabolism in A. nidulans. Our study also showed that repression of the three sequentially acting Galf pathway genes by conditional promoters phenocopied previously characterized deletion morphology. Using anti-Galf (L10) we also showed that deletion and repression of these genes caused no Galf in the hyphal wall. Gene deletion or repression also increased sensitivity to the wall-targeting drug, caspofungin. Related results from qPCR showed that deletion or repression of ugmA increased gene expression of α-glucan synthase agsB and decreased that of β-glucan synthase fksA. Therefore, Galf is non-essential but important for many aspects of Aspergillus growth, sporulation, and wall maturation. Aspergillosis, the most common airborne systemic fungal disease, is typically caused by Aspergillus fumigatus. Several A. fumigatus UgmA (AfUgmA) mutants with altered enzyme activity due to single amino acid changes were used to assess their effect on growth and wall composition in A. nidulans. Wild type AfugmA complemented the phenotypic defects in an A. nidulans ugmAΔ strain, consistent with these two genes being homologous. The AfUgmA crystal structure has been solved, and the in vitro enzymatic effects of specific mutations in the enzyme active site have been published. AfUgmA mutated strains with reduced activity in vitro impaired A. nidulans growth in a manner substantially similar to gene deletion and gene down-regulation. Site directed mutagenesis showed that AfUgmA residues R182 and R327 were critical for Galf generation both in vivo and in vitro. This supports previous results showing that UgmA is essential for Galf biosynthesis. Using fluorescent latex beads, we showed that reduction of wall Galf increased hyphal surface adhesion. Consistent with qPCR studies, immunofluorescence and ELISA results showed that loss or absence of Galf increased wall α-glucan but reduced wall β -glucan. Galf is important for wall surface integrity and for maintaining dynamic co-ordination with other pathways. To begin to assess this dynamic co-ordination, Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP) tagging combined with LC-MS/MS was used to identify the interacting partners of UgmA. Our results showed that UgmA interacted with proteins that are involved in cytoskeleton generation, osmotic adaptation, and cell signalling pathway. Further study will help us to understand the dynamic coordination of Galf biosynthesis pathway with other wall carbohydrate polymers for Aspergillus wall formation. In summary, my thesis results have clearly shown that Galf plays important roles in Aspergillus growth, and wall surface integrity. We also showed that Galf deficient strains are hypersensitive to wall-targeting drugs, indicating that Galf biosynthesis pathway could be potential target for combination therapy. The Galf pathway also maintained a dynamic co-ordination with alpha-glucan and beta-glucan carbohydrate pathways. Future study may include developing an inhibitor against UgmA and exploring the relationship of Galf pathway with alpha-glucan and beta-glucan carbohydrate pathways.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeKaminskyj, Susan; Wei, Yangdou; Todd, Christopher; Misra, Vikram; Moore, Margo
Copyright DateFebruary 2014