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      Variation in the fumonisin biosynthetic gene cluster in fumonisin-producing and nonproducing black aspergilli.

      Fungal Genetics and Biology

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          The ability to produce fumonisin mycotoxins varies among members of the black aspergilli. Previously, analyses of selected genes in the fumonisin biosynthetic gene (fum) cluster in black aspergilli from California grapes indicated that fumonisin-nonproducing isolates of Aspergillus welwitschiae lack six fum genes, but nonproducing isolates of Aspergillus niger do not. In the current study, analyses of black aspergilli from grapes from the Mediterranean Basin indicate that the genomic context of the fum cluster is the same in isolates of A. niger and A. welwitschiae regardless of fumonisin-production ability and that full-length clusters occur in producing isolates of both species and nonproducing isolates of A. niger. In contrast, the cluster has undergone an eight-gene deletion in fumonisin-nonproducing isolates of A. welwitschiae. Phylogenetic analyses suggest each species consists of a mixed population of fumonisin-producing and nonproducing individuals, and that existence of both production phenotypes may provide a selective advantage to these species. Differences in gene content of fum cluster homologues and phylogenetic relationships of fum genes suggest that the mutation(s) responsible for the nonproduction phenotype differs, and therefore arose independently, in the two species. Partial fum cluster homologues were also identified in genome sequences of four other black Aspergillus species. Gene content of these partial clusters and phylogenetic relationships of fum sequences indicate that non-random partial deletion of the cluster has occurred multiple times among the species. This in turn suggests that an intact cluster and fumonisin production were once more widespread among black aspergilli. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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