FurE, a member of the NCS1 transporter family in Aspergillus nidulans, is specific for allantoin, uric acid, uracil and related analogues. Herein, we show that C- or N-terminally truncated FurE transporters (FurE-ΔC or FurE-ΔΝ) present increased protein stability, but also inability for uric acid transport. To better understand the role of cytoplasmic terminal regions, we characterized genetic suppressors that restore FurE-ΔC-mediated uric acid transport. Suppressors map in the periphery of the substrate-binding site (Thr133 in TMS3 and Val343 in TMS8), an outward-facing gate (Ser296 in TMS7, Ile371 in TMS9, Tyr392 and Leu394 in TMS10) or in flexible loops (Asp26 in LN, Gly222 in L5, Asn308 in L7). Selected suppressors were shown to also restore the wild-type specificity of FurE-ΔΝ, suggesting that both C- and/or N-terminal domains are involved in intramolecular dynamics critical for substrate selection. A direct, substrate-sensitive, interaction of C- and/or N-terminal domains was supported by bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays. To our knowledge, this is the first case where not only the function, but also, the specificity of a eukaryotic transporter is regulated by its terminal cytoplasmic regions.
Filamentous fungi provide excellent systems for investigating the role of the AP-2 complex in polar growth. Using Aspergillus nidulans, we show that AP-2 has a clathrin-independent essential role in polarity maintenance and growth. This is in line with a sequence analysis showing that the AP-2 β subunit (β2) of higher fungi lacks a clathrin-binding domain, and experiments showing that AP-2 does not co-localize with clathrin. We provide genetic and cellular evidence that AP-2 interacts with endocytic markers SlaB(End4) and SagA(End3) and the lipid flippases DnfA and DnfB in the sub-apical collar region of hyphae. The role of AP-2 in the maintenance of proper apical membrane lipid and cell wall composition is further supported by its functional interaction with BasA (sphingolipid biosynthesis) and StoA (apical sterol-rich membrane domains), and its essentiality in polar deposition of chitin. Our findings support that the AP-2 complex of dikarya has acquired, in the course of evolution, a specialized clathrin-independent function necessary for fungal polar growth.
BACKGROUND: The fungal genus Aspergillus is of critical importance to humankind. Species include those with industrial applications, important pathogens of humans, animals and crops, a source of potent carcinogenic contaminants of food, and an important genetic model. The genome sequences of eight aspergilli have already been explored to investigate aspects of fungal biology, raising questions about evolution and specialization within this genus.
RESULTS: We have generated genome sequences for ten novel, highly diverse Aspergillus species and compared these in detail to sister and more distant genera. Comparative studies of key aspects of fungal biology, including primary and secondary metabolism, stress response, biomass degradation, and signal transduction, revealed both conservation and diversity among the species. Observed genomic differences were validated with experimental studies. This revealed several highlights, such as the potential for sex in asexual species, organic acid production genes being a key feature of black aspergilli, alternative approaches for degrading plant biomass, and indications for the genetic basis of stress response. A genome-wide phylogenetic analysis demonstrated in detail the relationship of the newly genome sequenced species with other aspergilli.
CONCLUSIONS: Many aspects of biological differences between fungal species cannot be explained by current knowledge obtained from genome sequences. The comparative genomics and experimental study, presented here, allows for the first time a genus-wide view of the biological diversity of the aspergilli and in many, but not all, cases linked genome differences to phenotype. Insights gained could be exploited for biotechnological and medical applications of fungi.
NCS1 proteins are H(+) or Na(+) symporters responsible for the uptake of purines, pyrimidines or related metabolites in bacteria, fungi and some plants. Fungal NCS1 are classified into two evolutionary and structurally distinct subfamilies, known as Fur- and Fcy-like transporters. These subfamilies have expanded and functionally diversified by gene duplications. The Fur subfamily of the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans includes both major and cryptic transporters specific for uracil, 5-fluorouracil, allantoin or/and uric acid. Here we functionally analyse all four A. nidulans Fcy transporters (FcyA, FcyC, FcyD and FcyE) with previously unknown function. Our analysis shows that FcyD is moderate-affinity, low-capacity, highly specific adenine transporter, whereas FcyE contributes to 8-azaguanine uptake. Mutational analysis of FcyD, supported by homology modelling and substrate docking, shows that two variably conserved residues (Leu356 and Ser359) in transmembrane segment 8 (TMS8) are critical for transport kinetics and specificity differences among Fcy transporters, while two conserved residues (Phe167 and Ser171) in TMS3 are also important for function. Importantly, mutation S359N converts FcyD to a promiscuous nucleobase transporter capable of recognizing adenine, xanthine and several nucleobase analogues. Our results reveal the importance of specific residues in the functional evolution of NCS1 transporters.