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Isolation and characterization of mutants of Aspergillus niger deficient in extracellular proteases

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In the present study, the extracellular protease activity in a strain of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger was investigated and mutant strains deficient in the production of extracellular proteases were isolated. The major protease, which is responsible for 80–85% of the total activity, is aspergillopepsin A, a protein of ca. 43 kDa, the activity of which is inhibited by pepstatin. In addition, a second protease, aspergillopepsin B, is produced, which is much less sensitive to inhibition by pepstatin. Several protease-deficient mutants were obtained by in vivo UV mutagenesis. In addition, a mutant lacking aspergillopepsin A was constructed by an in vitro gene replacement strategy. In this mutant, AB1.1, the entire coding region of the gene for aspergillopepsin A (pepA) is deleted. In three UV-induced mutants, aspergillopepsin A is also missing. One of these mutants, AB 1.18, is mutated in the pepA gene, which is located on chromosome I. One of the other mutants, AB1.13, which has only 1–2 % of the extracellular protease activity in the parent strain, is deficient in both aspergillopepsin A and aspergillopepsin B. The mutation involved, prt-13, has been localized to chromosome VI, and is probably a mutation in a regulatory gene. Another mutation involved in loss of protease function, prt-39, is located on chromosome VIII. Degradation of various heterologous proteins in culture media of the mutants is reduced but, even in strain AB1.13, not completely abolished.

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Communicated by W. Gajewski

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Mattern, I.E., van Noort, J.M., van den Berg, P. et al. Isolation and characterization of mutants of Aspergillus niger deficient in extracellular proteases. Molec. Gen. Genet. 234, 332–336 (1992).

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