Blocking utilization of major plant biomass polysaccharides leads Aspergillus niger towards utilization of minor components
Microb Biotechnol. 2021 Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.13835. Online ahead of print.
Fungi produce a wide range of enzymes that allow them to grow on diverse plant biomass. Wheat bran is a low-cost substrate with high potential for biotechnological applications. It mainly contains cellulose and (arabino)xylan, as well as starch, proteins, lipids and lignin to a lesser extent. In this study, we dissected the regulatory network governing wheat bran degradation in Aspergillus niger to assess the relative contribution of the regulators to the utilization of this plant biomass substrate. Deletion of genes encoding transcription factors involved in (hemi-)cellulose utilization (XlnR, AraR, ClrA and ClrB) individually and in combination significantly reduced production of polysaccharide-degrading enzymes, but retained substantial growth on wheat bran. Proteomic analysis suggested the ability of A. niger to grow on other carbon components, such as starch, which was confirmed by the additional deletion of the amylolytic regulator AmyR. Growth was further reduced but not impaired, indicating that other minor components provide sufficient energy for residual growth, displaying the flexibility of A. niger, and likely other fungi, in carbon utilization. Better understanding of the complexity and flexibility of fungal regulatory networks will facilitate the generation of more efficient fungal cell factories that use plant biomass as a substrate.