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Characterization of the Neurospora crassa DHN melanin biosynthetic pathway in developing ascospores and peridium cells

Ao, Jie, Bandyopadhyay, Sumit, Free, Stephen J.
Fungal biology 2019 v.123 no.1 pp. 1-9
Neurospora crassa, ascospores, biochemical pathways, cell walls, chitin, females, free radicals, genes, glucans, glycoproteins, hydrolases, laccase, melanin, melanization, models, perithecia, polyketide synthases, polyketides, polymerization, polymers
Neurospora crassa contains all four enzymes for the synthesis of DHN (dihydroxynaphthalene), the substrate for melanin formation. We show that the DHN melanin pathway functions during N. crassa female development to generate melanized peridium and ascospore cell walls. N. crassa contains one polyketide synthase (PER-1), two polyketide hydrolases (PKH-1 and PKH-2), two THN (tetrahydroxynaphthalene) reductases (PKR-1 and PKR-2), and one scytalone dehydratase (SCY-1). We show that the PER-1, PKH-1, PKR-1 and SCY-1 are required for ascospoer melanization. We also identified the laccase that functions in the conversion of DHN into melanin via a free radical oxidative polymerization reaction, and have named the gene lacm-1 (laccase for melanin formation-1). In maturing perithecia, we show that LACM-1 is localized to the peridium cell wall space while the DHN pathway enzymes are localized to intracellular vesicles. We present a model for melanin formation in which melanin is formed within the cell wall space and the cell wall structure is similar to “reinforced concrete” with the cell wall glucan, chitin, and glycoproteins encased within the melanin polymer. This arrangement provides for a very strong and resilient cell wall and protects the glucan/chitin/glycoprotein matrix from digestion from enzymes and damage from free radicals.