Nutrient limitation and nonfavorable growth conditions have been suggested to be major triggers for the expression of small, cysteine-rich antimicrobial proteins (AMPs) of fungal origin, e.g., the Penicillium chrysogenum antifungal protein (PAF), the Aspergillus giganteus antifungal protein (AFP), the Aspergillus niger antifungal protein (AnAFP). Therefore, these AMPs have been considered to be fungal secondary metabolite products. In contrast, the present study revealed that the expression of the PAF-related AMP P. chrysogenum antifungal protein B (PAFB) is strongly induced under nutrient excess during the logarithmic growth phase, whereas PAFB remained under the detection level in the supernatant of cultures grown under nutrient limitation. The efficiency of the pafB-promoter to induce PAFB expression was compared with that of two P. chrysogenum promoters that are well established for recombinant protein production: the paf-promoter and the xylose-inducible promoter of the xylanase gene, xylP. The inducibility of the pafB-promoter was superior to that of the xylP-promoter yielding comparable PAFB amounts as under the regulation of the paf-promoter. We conclude that (i) differences in the expression regulation of AMPs suggest distinct functional roles in the producer beyond their antifungal activity; and (ii) the pafB-promoter is a promising tool for recombinant protein production in P. chrysogenum, as it guarantees strong gene expression with the advantage of inducibility.
Keywords: Penicillium chrysogenum; Penicillium chrysogenum antifungal protein B (PAFB); antimicrobial proteins; expression system; gene regulation; nutrient; promoter; terminator.