The filamentous fungus Fusarium verticillioides can cause disease of maize and is capable of producing fumonisins, a family of toxic secondary metabolites linked to esophageal cancer and neural tube defects in humans and lung edema in swine and leukoencephalomalacia in equines. The expression of fumonisin biosynthetic genes is influenced by broad-domain transcription factors (global regulators) and Fum21, a pathway-specific transcription factor. LaeA is a global regulator that in Aspergillus nidulans, affects the expression of multiple secondary metabolite gene clusters by modifying heterochromatin structure. Here, we employed gene deletion analysis to assess the effect of loss of a F. verticillioides laeA orthologue, LAE1, on genome-wide gene expression and secondary metabolite production. Loss of Lae1 resulted in reduced expression of gene clusters responsible for synthesis of the secondary metabolites bikaverin, fumonisins, fusaric acid and fusarins as well as two clusters for which the corresponding secondary metabolite is unknown. Analysis of secondary metabolites revealed that, in contrast to a previously described Fusarium fujikuroi lae1 mutant, bikaverin production is reduced. Fumonisin production is unchanged in the F. verticillioides lae1 mutant. Complementation of the F. verticillioides mutant resulted in increased fumonisin production.
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