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Melanin biosynthesis in the desert-derived Aureobasidium melanogenum XJ5-1 is controlled mainly by the CWI signal pathway via a transcriptional activator Cmr1

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The melanin produced by Aureobasidium melanogenum XJ5-1 obtained from the Taklimakan Desert can play an important role in adaptation of the yeast strain to various stress treatments. It is very important to know how the desert-derived yeast sense, respond and adapt to the harsh environments. However, it is still unclear how melanin is genetically controlled by signaling pathways and transcriptional factors. In this study, it was found that the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) Slt2 in the cell wall integrity (CWI) signal pathway could regulate activity of the transcriptional activator Swi4; in turn, the Swi4 could control the expression of the CMR1 gene. The melanin-specific transcriptional activator Cmr1 encoded by the CMR1 gene was specifically bound to the promoter with the sequence TTCTCTCCA of the PKS1 gene and strongly stimulated expression of the PKS1 gene and any other genes responsible for melanin biosynthesis, so that a large amount of melanin could be produced by A. melanogenum XJ5-1. Therefore, melanin biosynthesis in the desert-derived A. melanogenum XJ5-1 was controlled mainly by the CWI signal pathway among the cell wall-related signal pathways via a transcriptional activator Cmr and regulation of the melanin biosynthesis in A. melanogenum XJ5-1 was completely different from that of the melanin biosynthesis in any other fungi. This is the first time to show that melanin biosynthesis in the desert-derived A. melanogenum XJ5-1 is controlled mainly by the CWI signal pathway via a transcriptional activator Cmr1. This would provide the fundamentals for further research on the desert-derived yeast to sense, respond and adapt to the harsh environments.

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This study was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 31800090 and 31770061).

Author information

HJ carried out all the experiments; ZC and GLL designed some of the experiments; ZH wrote some parts of the manuscript; ZMC wrote the whole manuscript.

Correspondence to Zhen-Ming Chi.

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Jiang, H., Chi, Z., Liu, G. et al. Melanin biosynthesis in the desert-derived Aureobasidium melanogenum XJ5-1 is controlled mainly by the CWI signal pathway via a transcriptional activator Cmr1. Curr Genet 66, 173–185 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00294-019-01010-9

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  • Taklimakan desert
  • Harsh environment
  • A. melanogenum
  • Transcriptional activator
  • Melanin biosynthesis