Identifying Genes Devoted to the Cell Death Process in the Gene Regulatory Network of <em>Ustilago maydis</em>
Front Microbiol. 2021 May 21;12:680290. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.680290. eCollection 2021.
Cell death is a process that can be divided into three morphological patterns: apoptosis, autophagy and necrosis. In fungi, cell death is induced in response to intracellular and extracellular perturbations, such as plant defense molecules, toxins and fungicides, among others. Ustilago maydis is a dimorphic fungus used as a model for pathogenic fungi of animals, including humans, and plants. Here, we reconstructed the transcriptional regulatory network of U. maydis, through homology inferences by using as templates the well-known gene regulatory networks (GRNs) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Aspergillus nidulans and Neurospora crassa. Based on this GRN, we identified transcription factors (TFs) as hubs and functional modules and calculated diverse topological metrics. In addition, we analyzed exhaustively the module related to cell death, with 60 TFs and 108 genes, where diverse cell proliferation, mating-type switching and meiosis, among other functions, were identified. To determine the role of some of these genes, we selected a set of 11 genes for expression analysis by qRT-PCR (sin3, rlm1, aif1, tdh3 [isoform A], tdh3 [isoform B], ald4, mca1, nuc1, tor1, ras1, and atg8) whose homologues in other fungi have been described as central in cell death. These genes were identified as downregulated at 72 h, in agreement with the beginning of the cell death process. Our results can serve as the basis for the study of transcriptional regulation, not only of the cell death process but also of all the cellular processes of U. maydis.