Metallothionein expression in Aspergillus exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of heavy metals at different pH levels
Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 May 4. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-14237-2. Online ahead of print.
Heavy metal pollution represents a health threat. Many fungal species are capable of tolerating various heavy metals, especially if they are isolated from a contaminated watercourse. One of the mechanisms by which fungi can sequester certain heavy metals is synthesizing stress proteins. The aim of this study is to investigate the production of metallothioneins in Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus clavatus exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of Cd, Cu, Fe, and Zn at neutral, alkaline, and acidic pH conditions within 10 days. We determined the concentrations of these heavy metals in certain watercourses representing Behira and Giza governorates; also, we identified the most prevalent fungal species. We carried out a statistical correlation between different heavy metals and the isolated fungi. Then, in the laboratory, we exposed two of the most prevalent fungal species to the environmentally detected concentrations of the heavy metals and their doubles. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis demonstrated that in A. oryzae, the metallothionein bands appeared in neutral medium containing Cd and Cu and in alkaline medium containing Cd and Zn, while in A. clavatus, no metallothionein bands appeared at all. In conclusion, metallothionein is a good indicator of pollution with Cd, Cu, and Zn in Aspergillus oryzae, and pH plays a central role in metallothionein production.