Biosynthetic gene clusters, secondary metabolite profiles, and cards of virulence in the closest nonpathogenic relatives of Aspergillus fumigatus

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jacob L SteenwykAntonis Rokas


Aspergillus fumigatus is a major human pathogen that causes hundreds of thousands of infections yearly with high mortality rates. In contrast, Aspergillus fischeri and the recently described Aspergillus oerlinghausenensis, the two species most closely related to A. fumigatus, are not known to be pathogenic. Some of the "cards of virulence" that A. fumigatus possesses are secondary metabolites that impair the host immune system, protect from host immune cell attacks, or acquire key nutrients. Secondary metabolites and the biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) that typically encode them often vary within and between fungal species. To gain insight into whether secondary metabolism-associated cards of virulence vary between A. fumigatus, A. oerlinghausenensis, and A. fischeri, we conducted extensive genomic and secondary metabolite profiling analyses. By analyzing multiple A. fumigatus, one A. oerlinghausenensis, and multiple A. fischeri strains, we identified both conserved and diverged secondary metabolism-associated cards of virulence. For example, we found that all species and strains examined biosynthesized the major virulence factor gliotoxin, consistent with the conservation of the gliotoxin BGC across genomes. However, species...Continue Reading

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