Elucidating how the saprophytic fungus Aspergillus nidulans uses the plant polyester suberin as carbon source

Isabel Martins, Diego O. Hartmann, Paula C. Alves, Celso Martins, Helga Garcia, Céline C. Leclercq, Rui Ferreira, Ji He, Jenny Renaut, Jörg D. Becker, Cristina Maria Pereira

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Background: Lipid polymers in plant cell walls, such as cutin and suberin, build recalcitrant hydrophobic protective barriers. Their degradation is of foremost importance for both plant pathogenic and saprophytic fungi. Regardless of numerous reports on fungal degradation of emulsified fatty acids or cutin, and on fungi-plant interactions, the pathways involved in the degradation and utilisation of suberin remain largely overlooked. As a structural component of the plant cell wall, suberin isolation, in general, uses harsh depolymerisation methods that destroy its macromolecular structure. We recently overcame this limitation isolating suberin macromolecules in a near-native state.Results: Suberin macromolecules were used here to analyse the pathways involved in suberin degradation and utilisation by Aspergillus nidulans. Whole-genome profiling data revealed the complex degrading enzymatic machinery used by this saprophytic fungus. Initial suberin modification involved ester hydrolysis and ω-hydroxy fatty acid oxidation that released long chain fatty acids. These fatty acids were processed through peroxisomal β-oxidation, leading to up-regulation of genes encoding the major enzymes of these pathways (e.g. faaB and aoxA). The obtained transcriptome data was further complemented by secretome, microscopic and spectroscopic analyses.Conclusions: Data support that during fungal growth on suberin, cutinase 1 and some lipases (e.g. AN8046) acted as the major suberin degrading enzymes (regulated by FarA and possibly by some unknown regulatory elements). Suberin also induced the onset of sexual development and the boost of secondary metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number613
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2014


  • Aspergillus nidulans
  • Cutinase
  • Long chain fatty acids
  • Suberin
  • Whole-genome profiling
  • β-oxidation

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