pH regulation is a major determinant in expression of a fungal penicillin biosynthetic gene

EMBO J. 1993 Oct;12(10):3947-56.


Transcription of the ipnA gene encoding isopenicillin N synthetase, an enzyme of secondary metabolism, is under the control of the pH regulatory system in the fungus Aspergillus nidulans. External alkaline pH or mutations in pacC, the wide domain regulatory gene which mediates pH regulation, override carbon regulation of ipnA transcript levels, resulting in elevation of the levels of this message in sucrose broth. Strains carrying these mutations, which mimic growth at alkaline pH, produce higher levels of penicillins when grown in sucrose broth compared with the wild type strain grown under carbon derepressing conditions. ipnA transcription is regulated by carbon (C) source, but extreme mutations in creA (the regulatory gene mediating carbon catabolite repression) only slightly increase repressed transcript levels. Precise deletion of the only in vitro CreA binding site present in a region of the ipnA promoter involved in carbon regulation has no effect on ipnA expression. The levels of ipnA transcript in broths with acetate or glycerol as principal C sources are inconsistent with direct or indirect creA-mediated transcriptional control of the gene. We conclude that a second, creA-independent mechanism of carbon repression controls expression of this gene. All derepressing C sources tested result in alkalinization of the growth media. In contrast, all repressing C sources result in external acidification. Neither acidic external pH nor pal mutations, mimicking the effects of growth at acid pH, prevent carbon derepression, providing strong support for independent regulatory mechanisms, one mediating carbon regulation (via thus far unidentified genes) and another mediating pH regulation (through the pacC-encoded transcriptional regulator). External pH measurements suggest that these two independent forms of regulation normally act in concert. We propose that external alkalinity represents a physiological signal which triggers penicillin biosynthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Aspergillus nidulans / enzymology*
  • Aspergillus nidulans / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • DNA, Fungal
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Genes, Regulator
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Penicillins / biosynthesis*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Acetates
  • DNA, Fungal
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Penicillins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • CreA protein, Aspergillus nidulans
  • Carbon
  • Oxidoreductases
  • isopenicillin N synthetase
  • Glycerol