Regulation of Autolysis in Aspergillus nidulans
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In terms of cell physiology, autolysis is the centerpiece of carbon-starving fungal cultures. In the filamentous fungus model organism Aspergillus nidulans, the last step of carbon-starvation-triggered autolysis was the degradation of the cell wall of empty hyphae, and this process was independent of concomitantly progressing cell death at the level of regulation. Autolysis-related proteinase and chitinase activities were induced via FluG signaling, which initiates sporulation and inhibits vegetative growth in surface cultures of A. nidulans. Extracellular hydrolase production was also subjected to carbon repression, which was only partly dependent on CreA, the main carbon catabolite repressor in this fungus. These data support the view that one of the main functions of autolysis is supplying nutrients for sporulation, when no other sources of nutrients are available. The divergent regulation of cell death and cell wall degradation provides the fungus with the option to keep dead hyphae intact to help surviving cells to absorb biomaterials from dead neighboring cells before these are released into the extracellular space. The industrial significance of these observations is also discussed in this paper.