RimO (SrrB) is required for carbon starvation signaling and production of secondary metabolites in Aspergillus nidulans
Fungal Genet Biol. 2022 Jul 14:103726. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2022.103726. Online ahead of print.
Depending on the prevailing environmental, developmental and nutritional conditions, fungi activate biosynthetic gene clusters (BGC) to produce condition-specific secondary metabolites (SMs). For activation, global chromatin-based de-repression must be integrated with pathway-specific induction signals. Here we describe a new global regulator needed to activate starvation-induced SMs. In our transcriptome dataset, we found locus AN7572 strongly transcribed solely under conditions of starvation-induced SM production. The predicted AN7572 protein is most similar to the stress and nutritional regulator Rim15 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and to STK-12 of Neurospora crassa. Based on this similarity and on stress and nutritional response phenotypes of A. nidulans knock-out and overexpression strains, AN7572 is designated rimO. In relation to SM production we found that RimO is required for the activation of starvation-induced BGCs, including the sterigmatocystin (ST) gene cluster. Here, RimO regulates the pathway-specific transcription factor AflR both at the transcriptional and post-translational level. At the transcriptional level, RimO mediates aflR induction following carbon starvation and at the post-translational level, RimO is required for nuclear accumulation of the AflR protein. Genome-wide transcriptional profiling showed that cells lacking rimO fail to adapt to carbon starvation that, in the wild type, leads to down-regulation of genes involved in basic metabolism, membrane biogenesis and growth. Consistently, strains overexpressing rimO are more resistant to oxidative and osmotic stress, largely insensitive to glucose repression and strongly overproduce several SMs. Our data indicate that RimO is a positive regulator within the SM and stress response network, but this requires nutrient depletion that triggers both, rimO gene transcription and activation of the RimO protein.