Department of Biology

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Six previously isolated, nonaflatoxigenic variants of Aspergillus parasiticus, designated sec mutants, were characterized morphologically by electron microscopy, biochemically by biotransformation studies with an aflatoxin precursor, and genetically by Northern (RNA) hybridization analysis of aflatoxin biosynthetic gene transcripts. Scanning electron micrographs clearly demonstrated that compared with the parental sec+ forms, the variant sec forms had an abundance of vegetative mycelia, orders of magnitude reduced number of conidiophores and conidia, and abnormal metulae. Conidiospores were detected in sec cultures only at higher magnifications (x500), in contrast to the sec+ (wild-type) strain, in which abundant conidiospores (masking the vegetative mycelia) were observed even at lower magnifications (x300). All sec+ forms, but none of the sec forms, showed bioconversion of sterigmatocystin to aflatoxins. Northern blots probed with pathway genes demonstrated lack of expression of both the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway structural (nor-1 and omtA) and regulatory (aflR) genes in the sec forms; PCR and Southern hybridization analysis confirmed the presence of the genes in the sec genomes. Thus, the loss of aflatoxigenic capabilities in the sec form is correlated with alterations in the conidial morphology of the fungus, suggesting that the regulation of aflatoxin synthesis and conidiogenesis may be interlinked.


PubMed ID: 8795232