Aspergillus nidulans biofilm formation modifies cellular architecture and enables light-activated autophagy

Mol Biol Cell. 2021 Jun 1;32(12):1181-1192. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E20-11-0734. Epub 2021 Apr 7.


After growing on surfaces, including those of medical and industrial importance, fungal biofilms self-generate internal microenvironments. We previously reported that gaseous microenvironments around founder Aspergillus nidulans cells change during biofilm formation causing microtubules to disassemble under control of the hypoxic transcription factor SrbA. Here we investigate if biofilm formation might also promote changes to structures involved in exocytosis and endocytosis. During biofilm formation, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) remained intact but ER exit sites and the Golgi apparatus were modified as were endocytic actin patches. The biofilm-driven changes required the SrbA hypoxic transcription factor and could be triggered by nitric oxide, further implicating gaseous regulation of biofilm cellular architecture. By tracking green fluorescent protein (GFP)-Atg8 dynamics, biofilm founder cells were also observed to undergo autophagy. Most notably, biofilm cells that had undergone autophagy were triggered into further autophagy by spinning disk confocal light. Our findings indicate that fungal biofilm formation modifies the secretory and endocytic apparatus and show that biofilm cells can also undergo autophagy that is reactivated by light. The findings provide new insights into the changes occurring in fungal biofilm cell biology that potentially impact their unique characteristics, including antifungal drug resistance.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus nidulans / physiology
  • Aspergillus nidulans / ultrastructure*
  • Autophagy*
  • Biofilms*
  • Endocytosis
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / physiology*
  • Exocytosis
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / physiology
  • Light*
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Transcription Factors