Spatial differentiation of gene expression in Aspergillus niger colony grown for sugar beet pulp utilization

Sci Rep. 2015 Aug 28:5:13592. doi: 10.1038/srep13592.


Degradation of plant biomass to fermentable sugars is of critical importance for the use of plant materials for biofuels. Filamentous fungi are ubiquitous organisms and major plant biomass degraders. Single colonies of some fungal species can colonize massive areas as large as five soccer stadia. During growth, the mycelium encounters heterogeneous carbon sources. Here we assessed whether substrate heterogeneity is a major determinant of spatial gene expression in colonies of Aspergillus niger. We analyzed whole-genome gene expression in five concentric zones of 5-day-old colonies utilizing sugar beet pulp as a complex carbon source. Growth, protein production and secretion occurred throughout the colony. Genes involved in carbon catabolism were expressed uniformly from the centre to the periphery whereas genes encoding plant biomass degrading enzymes and nitrate utilization were expressed differentially across the colony. A combined adaptive response of carbon-catabolism and enzyme production to locally available monosaccharides was observed. Finally, our results demonstrate that A. niger employs different enzymatic tools to adapt its metabolism as it colonizes complex environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus niger / drug effects
  • Aspergillus niger / enzymology
  • Aspergillus niger / genetics*
  • Aspergillus niger / growth & development*
  • Beta vulgaris / metabolism*
  • Carbon / pharmacology
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal* / drug effects
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Nitrogen / pharmacology
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis


  • Polysaccharides
  • Carbon
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Nitrogen