The AraR transcription factor of Aspergillus niger encodes a Zn(II)2Cys6 transcription factor required for the induction of genes encoding arabinolytic enzymes. One of the target genes of AraR is abfA, encoding an arabinofuranosidase. The expression of abfA as well as other L-arabinose-induced genes in A. niger requires the presence of L-arabinose or its derivative L-arabitol as an inducer to activate AraR-dependant gene expression. In this study, mutants were isolated that express L-arabinose-induced genes independently of the presence of an inducer under derepressing conditions. To obtain these mutants, a reporter strain was constructed in a ΔcreA background containing the L-arabinose-responsive promoter (PabfA) fused to the acetamidase (amdS) gene. Spores of the ΔcreA PabfA-amdS reporter strain were UV-mutagenized and mutants were obtained by their ability to grow on acetamide without the presence of inducer. From a total of 164 mutants, 15 mutants were identified to contain transacting mutations resulting in high arabinofuranosidase activity in the medium after growth under non-inducing conditions. Sequencing of the araR gene of the 15 constitutive mutants revealed that 14 mutants carried a mutation in AraR. Some mutations were found more than once and in total nine different point mutations were identified in AraR. The AraRN806I point mutation was reintroduced into a parental strain and confirmed that this point mutation leads to inducer-independent expression of AraR target genes. The inducer independent of L-arabinose-induced genes in the AraRN806I mutant was found to be sensitive to carbon catabolite repression, indicating that the CreA-mediated carbon catabolite repression is dominant over the AraRN806I mutant allele. These mutations in AraR provide new opportunities to improve arabinase production in industrial fungal strains.
Keywords: Arabinases; Carbon catabolite repression; Plant cell wall; Transcriptional regulation; creA.