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Morphological Transitions Governed by Density Dependence and Lipoxygenase Activity in Aspergillus flavus

Horowitz Brown, S., Zarnowski, R., Sharpee, W.C., Keller, N.P.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2008 v.74 no.18 pp. 5674-5685
Aspergillus flavus, conidia, culture media, linoleic acid, lipoxygenase, mutants, oleic acid, overwintering, phenotype, quorum sensing, sclerotia
Aspergillus flavus differentiates to produce asexual dispersing spores (conidia) or overwintering survival structures called sclerotia. Results described here show that these two processes are oppositely regulated by density-dependent mechanisms and that increasing the cell density (from 10¹ to 10⁷ cells/plate) results in the lowest numbers of sclerotial and the highest numbers of conidial. Extract from spent medium of low-cell-density cultures induced a high-sclerotium-number phenotype, whereas high-cell-density extract increased conidiation. Density-dependent development is also modified by changes in lipid availability. Exogenous linoleic acid increased sclerotial production at intermediate cell densities (10⁴ and 10⁵ cells/plate), whereas oleic and linolenic acids inhibited sclerotium formation. Deletion of Aflox encoding a lipoxygenase (LOX) greatly diminished density-dependent development of both sclerotia and conidia, resulting in an overall increase in the number of sclerotia and a decrease in the number of conidia at high cell densities (>10⁵ cells/plate). Aflox mutants showed decreased linoleic acid LOX activity. Taken together, these results suggest that there is a quorum-sensing mechanism in which a factor(s) produced in dense cultures, perhaps a LOX-derived metabolite, activates conidium formation, while a factor(s) produced in low-density cultures stimulates sclerotium formation.