Background: Chemical mutagenesis screens are useful to identify mutants involved in biological processes of interest. Identifying the mutation from such screens, however, often fails when using methodologies involving transformation of the mutant to wild type phenotype with DNA libraries.
Results: Here we analyzed Illumina sequence of a chemically derived mutant of Aspergillus nidulans and identified a gene encoding a C2H2 transcription factor termed RsrA for regulator of stress response. RsrA is conserved in filamentous fungal genomes, and upon deleting the gene in three Aspergillus species (A. nidulans, A. flavus and A. fumigatus), we found two conserved phenotypes: enhanced resistance to oxidative stress and reduction in sporulation processes. For all species, rsrA deletion mutants were more resistant to hydrogen peroxide treatment. In depth examination of this latter characteristic in A. nidulans showed that upon exposure to hydrogen peroxide, RsrA loss resulted in global up-regulation of several components of the oxidative stress metabolome including the expression of napA and atfA, the two bZIP transcription factors mediating resistance to reactive oxygen species (ROS) as well as NapA targets in thioredoxin and glutathione systems. Coupling transcriptional data with examination of ΔrsrAΔatfA and ΔrsrAΔnapA double mutants indicate that RsrA primarily operates through NapA-mediated stress response pathways. A model of RsrA regulation of ROS response in Aspergillus is presented.
Conclusion: RsrA, found in a highly syntenic region in Aspergillus genomes, coordinates a NapA mediated oxidative response in Aspergillus fungi.