, Volume 153, Issue 1, pp 41-48

Association of aflatoxin biosynthesis and sclerotialdevelopment in Aspergillus parasiticus

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Abstract

Secondary metabolism in fungi is frequently associated with asexual and sexual development. Aspergillus parasiticus produces aflatoxins known to contaminate a variety of agricultural commodities. This strictly mitotic fungus, besides producing conidia asexually, produces sclerotia, structures resistant to harsh conditions and for propagation. Sclerotia are considered to be derived from the sexual structure, cleistothecia, and may represent a vestige of ascospore production. Introduction of the aflatoxin pathway-specific regulatory gene, aflR, and aflJ, which encoded a putative co-activator, into an O-methylsterigmatocystin (OMST)-accumulating strain,A. parasiticus SRRC 2043, resulted in elevated levels of accumulation of major aflatoxin precursors, including norsolorinic acid (NOR), averantin (AVN), versicolorin A (VERA) and OMST. The total amount of these aflatoxin precursors, NOR, VERA, AVN and OMST, produced by the aflR plus aflJ transformants was two to three-fold that produced by the aflR transformants. This increase indicated a synergisticeffect of aflR and aflJ on the synthesis of aflatoxin precursors. Increased production of the aflatoxin precursors was associated with progressive decrease in sclerotial size, alteration in sclerotial shape and weakening in the sclerotial structure of the transformants. The results showed that sclerotial development and aflatoxin biosynthesis are closely related. We proposed that competition for a common substrate, such as acetate, by the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway could adversely affect sclerotial development in A. parasiticus.