The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae alters ambient pH, allowing extracellular protease production and activity

Microbiology. 1999 Oct;145 ( Pt 10):2691-9. doi: 10.1099/00221287-145-10-2691.


Ambient pH regulates the expression of virulence genes of Metarhizium anisopliae, but it was unknown if M. anisopliae can regulate ambient pH. Mutants of M. anisopliae altered in production of oxalic acid were evaluated for the interrelationship of ambient pH, buffering capacity added to media, growth, and generation of extracellular proteases and ammonia. Wild-type and acid-overproducing mutants [Acid(+)] grew almost as well at pH 8 as at pH 6, but acid-non-producing [Acid(-)] mutants showed limited growth at pH 8, indicating that acid production is linked to the ability to grow at higher pH. Production of ammonia by M. anisopliae was strongly stimulated by low levels of amino acids in the medium when cells were derepressed for nitrogen and carbon. Likewise, although Aspergillus fumigatus and Neurospora crassa produced some ammonia in minimal media, addition of low levels of amino acids enhanced production. Ammonia production by A. fumigatus, N. crassa and M. anisopliae increased the pH of the medium and allowed production of subtilisin proteases, whose activities are observed only at basic pH. In contrast, protease production by the Acid(+) mutants of M. anisopliae was greatly reduced because of the acidification of the medium. This suggests that alkalinization by ammonia production is adaptive by facilitating the utilization of proteinaceous nutrients. Collectively, the data imply that ammonia may have functions related to regulation of the microenvironment and that it represents a previously unconsidered virulence factor in diverse fungi with the potential to harm tissues and disturb the host's immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Ascomycota / genetics
  • Ascomycota / metabolism*
  • Ascomycota / pathogenicity
  • Endopeptidases / biosynthesis
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxalic Acid / metabolism


  • Ammonia
  • Oxalic Acid
  • Endopeptidases