In filamentous fungal Aspergillus species, growth, development, and secondary metabolism are genetically programmed biological processes, which require precise coordination of diverse signaling elements, transcription factors (TFs), upstream and downstream regulators, and biosynthetic genes. For the last few decades, regulatory roles of these controllers in asexual/sexual development and primary/secondary metabolism of Aspergillus species have been extensively studied. Among a wide spectrum of regulators, a handful of global regulators govern upstream regulation of development and metabolism by directly and/or indirectly affecting the expression of various genes including TFs. In this review, with the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans as the central figure, we summarize the most well-studied main upstream regulators and their regulatory roles. Specifically, we present key functions of heterotrimeric G proteins and G protein-coupled receptors in signal transduction), the velvet family proteins governing development and metabolism, LaeA as a global regulator of secondary metabolism, and NsdD, a key GATA-type TF, affecting development and secondary metabolism and provide a snapshot of overall upstream regulatory processes underlying growth, development, and metabolism in Aspergillus fungi.
Keywords: Aspergillus; G proteins; NsdD; development; secondary metabolism; upstream regulators; velvet regulators.