, Volume 203, Issue 2, pp 346-353

Regulation of gene expression by pH of the growth medium in Aspergillus nidulans

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In the fungus Aspergillus nidulans the levels of a number of enzymes whose location is at least in part extracellular (e.g. acid phosphatase, alkaline phosphatase, phosphodiesterase) and of certain permeases (e.g. that for γ-amino-n-butyrate) are controlled by the pH of the growth medium. For example, at acidic pH, levels of acid phosphatase are high and those of alkaline phosphatase are low whereas at alkaline pH the reverse is true. Mutations in five genes, palA, B, C, E and F, mimic the effects of growth at acid pH whereas mutations in pacC mimic the effects of growth at alkaline pH. palA, B, C, E and F mutations result in an intracellular pH (pHin) which is more alkaline than that of the wild type whereas pacC mutations result in a pHin more acidic than that of the wild type. This indicates that these mutations exert their primary effects on the regulation of gene expression by pH rather than on the pH homeostatic mechanism but that the expression of at least some component(s) of the pH homeostatic mechanism is subject to the pH regulatory system. It is suggested that pacC might be a wide domain regulatory gene whose product acts positively in some cases (e.g. acid phosphatase) and negatively in others (e.g. alkaline phosphatase). The products of palA, B, C, E and F are proposed to be involved in a metabolic pathway leading to synthesis of an effector molecule able to prevent the (positive and negative) action of the pacC product.

These genes are, to our knowledge, the first examples of genes involved in the regulation of extracellular enzyme and permease synthesis by the pH of the growth medium to be described in any organism.