Aspergillus oryzae is an important microorganism in the bio- and food industries; therefore, understanding the mechanism underlying its secondary metabolism regulation is important for ensuring its safe use. Here, we screened a novel Zn(II)2-Cys6-type protein-encoding gene, AO090003001186, designated as kpeA (kojic acid production enhancement A), from an A. oryzae disruption mutant library of transcriptional regulators. kpeA is highly conserved among filamentous fungi and encodes a protein with Zn(II)2-Cys6 motif located in the middle of the sequence. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that KpeA was classified into a distal group compared to other fungal Zn(II)2-Cys6-type transcriptional regulators. A Cys to Ala substitution mutant of KpeA showed identical phenotype to the kpeA disruption strain, confirming that KpeA is novel type Zn(II)2-Cys6 binding protein. Colonies of the kpeA disruption strain (ΔkpeA) had longer aerial hyphae and showed decreased conidia production. Microscopic analysis suggested that the reduced vesicle size and conidial head formation in ΔkpeA strain account for the decreased conidia production. Transcriptional levels of brlA and downstream abaA and wetA were decreased in ΔkpeA strain. Moreover, ΔkpeA strain produced 6-fold more kojic acid than the control strains, and the expression of kojR and kojA was increased in ΔkpeA strain. Therefore, KpeA is a novel Zn(II)2-Cys6-type protein likely involved in conidiation and kojic acid production at the transcriptional level.
Keywords: Aspergillus oryzae; Conidiation; Kojic acid; Zn(II)(2)-Cys(6) type protein.
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