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Efficient formation of heterokaryotic sclerotia in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus oryzae

Wada, Ryuta, Jin, Feng Jie, Koyama, Yasuji, Maruyama, Jun-ichi, Kitamoto, Katsuhiko
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2014 v.98 no.1 pp. 325-334
Aspergillus oryzae, Neurospora crassa, adenine, auxotrophs, fluorescence, fungi, gene overexpression, genes, heterokaryon, hyphae, parasexual cycle, proteins, sclerotia, sexual reproduction, transcription factors, uracil, uridine
Heterokaryon formation by hyphal fusion occurs during a sexual/parasexual cycle in filamentous fungi, and therefore, it is biotechnologically important for crossbreeding. In the industrial filamentous fungus Aspergillus oryzae, a parasexual cycle has been reported, and it was recently suggested that sexual reproduction should be possible. However, as A. oryzae enters into hyphal fusion with a much lower frequency than Neurospora crassa, the process of heterokaryon formation has not been extensively characterized in A. oryzae. Here, we developed a detection system for heterokaryon formation by expressing red or green fluorescent proteins in nuclei and conferring uridine/uracil or adenine auxotrophy to MAT1-1 and MAT1-2 strains of A. oryzae. The heterokaryon formation of A. oryzae was investigated in paired culture using the genetically modified strains. No sclerotial formation was observed in the hyphal contact regions of the two strains with the same auxotrophy, whereas numerous sclerotia were formed between the strains with different auxotrophies. In most of the formed sclerotia, the uridine/uracil and adenine auxotrophies were complemented, and both red and green fluorescence were detected, indicating that heterokaryotic fusants were formed by hyphal fusion before or during sclerotial formation. Moreover, overexpressing the sclR gene, which encodes a transcription factor promoting sclerotial formation, increased the number of heterokaryotic sclerotia formed between the two auxotrophic strains. Notably, these effects in sclerotial formation of heterokaryotic fusants were observed independently of the mating type pairing combinations. Taken together, these findings demonstrated that paring of different auxotrophs and sclR overexpression promote the formation of heterokaryotic sclerotia in A. oryzae.