Aspergilli play major roles in the natural turnover of elements, especially through the decomposition of plant litter, but the end catabolism of lignin aromatic hydrocarbons remains largely unresolved. The 3-oxoadipate pathway of their degradation combines the catechol and the protocatechuate branches, each using a set of specific genes. However, annotation for most of these genes is lacking or attributed to poorly- or un-characterised families. Aspergillus nidulans can utilise as sole carbon/energy source either benzoate or salicylate (upstream aromatic metabolites of the protocatechuate and the catechol branches, respectively). Using this cultivation strategy and combined analyses of comparative proteomics, gene mining, gene expression and characterisation of particular gene-replacement mutants, we precisely assigned most of the steps of the 3-oxoadipate pathway to specific genes in this fungus. Our findings disclose the genetically encoded potential of saprophytic Ascomycota fungi to utilise this pathway and provide means to untie associated regulatory networks, which are vital to heightening their ecological significance.
Keywords: 3-Oxoadipate pathway; Aromatic compounds catabolism; Aspergillus nidulans; Protocatechuate/catechol branches; Saprophytic Ascomycota fungi.
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