The role of carbon starvation in the induction of enzymes that degrade plant-derived carbohydrates in Aspergillus niger

Jolanda M van Munster, Paul Daly, Stéphane Delmas, Steven T Pullan, Martin J Blythe, Sunir Malla, Matthew Kokolski, Emelie C M Noltorp, Kristin Wennberg, Richard Fetherston, Richard Beniston, Xiaolan Yu, Paul Dupree, David B Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Fungi are an important source of enzymes for saccharification of plant polysaccharides and production of biofuels. Understanding of the regulation and induction of expression of genes encoding these enzymes is still incomplete. To explore the induction mechanism, we analysed the response of the industrially important fungus Aspergillus niger to wheat straw, with a focus on events occurring shortly after exposure to the substrate. RNA sequencing showed that the transcriptional response after 6h of exposure to wheat straw was very different from the response at 24h of exposure to the same substrate. For example, less than half of the genes encoding carbohydrate active enzymes that were induced after 24h of exposure to wheat straw, were also induced after 6h exposure. Importantly, over a third of the genes induced after 6h of exposure to wheat straw were also induced during 6h of carbon starvation, indicating that carbon starvation is probably an important factor in the early response to wheat straw. The up-regulation of the expression of a high number of genes encoding CAZymes that are active on plant-derived carbohydrates during early carbon starvation suggests that these enzymes could be involved in a scouting role during starvation, releasing inducing sugars from complex plant polysaccharides. We show, using proteomics, that carbon-starved cultures indeed release CAZymes with predicted activity on plant polysaccharides. Analysis of the enzymatic activity and the reaction products, indicates that these proteins are enzymes that can degrade various plant polysaccharides to generate both known, as well as potentially new, inducers of CAZymes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-47
Number of pages14
JournalFungal Genetics and Biology
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Aspergillus niger/enzymology
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Carbon/metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins/analysis
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Glycoside Hydrolases/metabolism
  • Plant Stems/metabolism
  • Proteome/analysis
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Triticum/metabolism


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