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Toxins 2016, 8(1), 29; doi:10.3390/toxins8010029

The Master Transcription Factor mtfA Governs Aflatoxin Production, Morphological Development and Pathogenicity in the Fungus Aspergillus flavus

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, 155 Castle Dr., Dekalb, IL 60115, USA
2
Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, USDA/ARS, Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, LA 70124, USA
Permanent address: Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Fungi and Mycotoxins of Fujian Province, School of Life Sciences, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou 350002, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Shohei Sakuda
Received: 7 December 2015 / Revised: 23 December 2015 / Accepted: 6 January 2016 / Published: 20 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Collection Aflatoxins)
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Abstract

Aspergillus flavus produces a variety of toxic secondary metabolites; among them, the aflatoxins (AFs) are the most well known. These compounds are highly mutagenic and carcinogenic, particularly AFB1. A. flavus is capable of colonizing a number of economically-important crops, such as corn, cotton, peanut and tree nuts, and contaminating them with AFs. Molecular genetic studies in A. flavus could identify novel gene targets for use in strategies to reduce AF contamination and its adverse impact on food and feed supplies worldwide. In the current study, we investigated the role of the master transcription factor gene mtfA in A. flavus. Our results revealed that forced overexpression of mtfA results in a drastic decrease or elimination of several secondary metabolites, among them AFB1. The reduction in AFB1 was accompanied by a decrease in aflR expression. Furthermore, mtfA also regulates development; conidiation was influenced differently by this gene depending on the type of colonized substrate. In addition to its effect on conidiation, mtfA is necessary for the normal maturation of sclerotia. Importantly, mtfA positively affects the pathogenicity of A. flavus when colonizing peanut seeds. AF production in colonized seeds was decreased in the deletion mtfA strain and particularly in the overexpression strain, where only trace amounts were detected. Interestingly, a more rapid colonization of the seed tissue occurred when mtfA was overexpressed, coinciding with an increase in lipase activity and faster maceration of the oily part of the seed. View Full-Text
Keywords: aflatoxin; mtfA; Aspergillus flavus; secondary metabolism; conidiation; sclerotia; pathogenicity aflatoxin; mtfA; Aspergillus flavus; secondary metabolism; conidiation; sclerotia; pathogenicity
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Zhuang, Z.; Lohmar, J.M.; Satterlee, T.; Cary, J.W.; Calvo, A.M. The Master Transcription Factor mtfA Governs Aflatoxin Production, Morphological Development and Pathogenicity in the Fungus Aspergillus flavus. Toxins 2016, 8, 29.

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