The Protective Role of 1,8-Dihydroxynaphthalene-Melanin on Conidia of the Opportunistic Human Pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus Revisited: No Role in Protection against Hydrogen Peroxide and Superoxides
mSphere. 2022 Jan 5:e0087421. doi: 10.1128/msphere.00874-21. Online ahead of print.
Previously, 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin was described to protect Aspergillus fumigatus against hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), thereby protecting this opportunistic human pathogen from reactive oxygen species generated by the immune system. This was based on the finding that the ATCC 46645 mutant with mutations in the pksP gene of the DHN-melanin synthesis pathway showed increased sensitivity to reactive oxygen species compared to the wild type. Here, it is shown that deletion of the pksP gene in A. fumigatus strain CEA10 did not affect sensitivity for H2O2 and superoxide in a plate stress assay. In addition, direct exposure of the dormant white conidia of the pksP deletion strains to H2O2 did not result in increased sensitivity. Moreover, complementation of the ATCC 46645 pksP mutant strain with the wild-type pksP gene did result in pigmented conidia but did not rescue the H2O2-sensitive phenotype observed in the plate stress assay. Genome sequencing of the ATCC 46645 pksP mutant strain and its complemented strain revealed a mutation in the cat1 gene, likely due to the UV mutagenesis procedure used previously, which could explain the increased sensitivity toward H2O2. In summary, DHN-melanin is not involved in protection against H2O2 or superoxide and, thus, has no role in survival of conidia when attacked by these reactive oxygen species. IMPORTANCE Opportunistic pathogens like Aspergillus fumigatus have strategies to protect themselves against reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxides and superoxides that are produced by immune cells. DHN-melanin is the green pigment on conidia of Aspergillus fumigatus and more than 2 decades ago was reported to protect conidia against hydrogen peroxide. Here, we correct this misinterpretation by showing that DHN-melanin actually is not involved in protection of conidia against hydrogen peroxide. We show that UV mutagenesis that was previously used to select a pksP mutant generated many more genome-wide mutations. We discovered that a mutation in the mycelial catalase gene cat1 could explain the observed phenotype of increased hydrogen peroxide sensitivity. Our work shows that UV mutagenesis is not the preferred methodology to be used for generating mutants. It requires genome sequencing with single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis as well as additional validations to discard unwanted and confirm correct phenotypes.