Trehalose is a non-reducing disaccharide found at high concentrations in Aspergillus nidulans conidia and rapidly degraded upon induction of conidial germination. Furthermore, trehalose is accumulated in response to a heat shock or to an oxidative shock. The authors have characterized the A. nidulans tpsA gene encoding trehalose-6-phosphate synthase, which catalyses the first step in trehalose biosynthesis. Expression of tpsA in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae tps1 mutant revealed that the tpsA gene product is a functional equivalent of the yeast Tps1 trehalose-6-phosphate synthase. The A. nidulans tpsA-null mutant does not produce trehalose during conidiation or in response to various stress conditions. While germlings of the tpsA mutant show an increased sensitivity to moderate stress conditions (growth at 45 degrees C or in the presence of 2 mM H(2)O(2)), they display a response to severe stress (60 min at 50 degrees C or in the presence of 100 mM H(2)O(2)) similar to that of wild-type germlings. Furthermore, conidia of the tpsA mutant show a rapid loss of viability upon storage. These results are consistent with a role of trehalose in the acquisition of stress tolerance. Inactivation of the tpsA gene also results in increased steady-state levels of sugar phosphates but does not prevent growth on rapidly metabolizable carbon sources (glucose, fructose) as seen in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This suggests that trehalose 6-phosphate is a physiological inhibitor of hexokinase but that this control is not essential for proper glycolytic flux in A. nidulans. Interestingly, tpsA transcription is not induced in response to heat shock or during conidiation, indicating that trehalose accumulation is probably due to a post-translational activation process of the trehalose 6-phosphate synthase.