Impact of nitrogen metabolism-associated culture pH changes on regulation of Fusarium trichothecene biosynthesis: revision of roles of polyamine agmatine and transcription factor AreA

Abstract

Fusarium graminearum produces trichothecene mycotoxins in infected grains and axenic liquid culture. A proposed regulatory model of trichothecene biosynthesis was examined in relation to nitrogen utilization. First, we showed that an important factor for the stimulation of trichothecene biosynthesis was not the occurrence of agmatine as a specific inducer molecule, but rather continuous acidification of the liquid culture medium arising from agmatine catabolism. When the pH of the l-Gln synthetic medium was frequently adjusted to the pH of the agmatine culture, trichothecene productivity of the l-Gln culture was equal to that of the agmatine culture. For efficient trichothecene biosynthesis, the culture pH should be lowered at an appropriate time point during the early growth stage. Second, we re-evaluated the role of the nitrogen regulatory GATA transcription factor AreA in trichothecene biosynthesis. Since Tri6 encodes a transcription factor indispensable for trichothecene biosynthesis, all fifteen AreA-binding consensus sequences in the Tri6 promoter were mutated. The mutant could catabolize l-Phe as the sole nitrogen source; furthermore, the pH profile of the synthetic l-Phe medium (initial pH 4.2) was the same as that of the wild-type (WT) strain. Under such conditions, the promoter mutant exhibited approximately 72% of the trichothecene productivity compared to the WT strain. Thus, F. graminearum AreA (FgAreAp) is dispensable for the functioning of the Tri6 promoter, but it contributes to the increased production of mycotoxin under mildly acidic conditions to some extent. Further investigations on the culture pH revealed that extremely low pH bypasses the function of FgAreAp.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants from the Project of the NARO Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (Research program on the development of innovative technology) (Grant number 28007AB) and Noda Institute for Scientific Research.

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Correspondence to Makoto Kimura.

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Nakajima, Y., Akasaka, M., Shiobara, T. et al. Impact of nitrogen metabolism-associated culture pH changes on regulation of Fusarium trichothecene biosynthesis: revision of roles of polyamine agmatine and transcription factor AreA. Curr Genet 66, 1179–1190 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00294-020-01102-x

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Keywords

  • Agmatine
  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Transcription regulator
  • Tri6
  • Trichothecene production