Chemical induction of silent biosynthetic pathway transcription in Aspergillus niger
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- Fisch, K.M., Gillaspy, A.F., Gipson, M. et al. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol (2009) 36: 1199. doi:10.1007/s10295-009-0601-4
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Manipulation of the fungal epigenome is hypothesized to be an effective method for accessing natural products from silent biosynthetic pathways. A library of epigenetic modifiers was tested using the fungus Aspergillus niger to determine the impact of small-molecule inhibitors on reversing the transcriptional suppression of biosynthetic genes involved in polyketide (PKS), non-ribosomal peptide (NRPS), and hybrid PKS-NRPS (HPN) production. Examination of expressed sequence tag libraries from A. niger demonstrated that >70% of its PKS-, NRPS-, and HPN-encoding gene clusters were transcriptionally suppressed under standard laboratory culture conditions. Using a chemical epigenetic methodology, we showed that treatment of A. niger with suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid and 5-azacytidine led to the transcriptional upregulation of many secondary-metabolite-encoding biosynthetic gene clusters. Chemical epigenetic modifiers exhibited positional biases for upregulating chromosomally distal gene clusters. In addition, a phylogenetic-based preference was noted in the upregulation of reducing clade I PKS gene clusters, while reducing clade IV PKS gene clusters were largely unaffected. Manipulating epigenetic features in fungi is a powerful method for accessing the products of silent biosynthetic pathways. Moreover, this approach can be readily incorporated into modern microbial screening operations.