Filamentous fungi are excellent experimental systems due to their short life cycles as well as easy and safe manipulation in the laboratory. They form three-dimensional structures with numerous different cell types and have a long tradition as genetic model organisms used to unravel basic mechanisms underlying eukaryotic cell differentiation. The filamentous ascomycete Sordaria macrospora is a model system for sexual fruiting body (perithecia) formation. S. macrospora is homothallic, i.e., self-fertile, easily genetically tractable, and well suited for large-scale genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics studies. Specific features of its life cycle and the availability of a developmental mutant library make it an excellent system for studying cellular differentiation at the molecular level. In this review, we focus on recent developments in identifying gene and protein regulatory networks governing perithecia formation. A number of tools have been developed to genetically analyze developmental mutants and dissect transcriptional profiles at different developmental stages. Protein interaction studies allowed us to identify a highly conserved eukaryotic multisubunit protein complex, the striatin-interacting phosphatase and kinase complex and its role in sexual development. We have further identified a number of proteins involved in chromatin remodeling and transcriptional regulation of fruiting body development. Furthermore, we review the involvement of metabolic processes from both primary and secondary metabolism, and the role of nutrient recycling by autophagy in perithecia formation. Our research has uncovered numerous players regulating multicellular development in S. macrospora. Future research will focus on mechanistically understanding how these players are orchestrated in this fungal model system.
Keywords: Ascomycete; Autophagy; Carbonic anhydrases; Cell differentiation; Fruiting body formation; Functional Genomics; NADPH oxidases; Polyketides; Striatin-interacting phosphatase and kinase (STRIPAK) complex.
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