In filamentous fungi, several lines of experimental evidence indicate that secondary metabolism is triggered by oxidative stress; however, the functional and molecular mechanisms that mediate this association are unclear. The basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factor AtfB, a member of the bZIP/CREB family, helps regulate conidial tolerance to oxidative stress. In this work, we investigated the role of AtfB in the connection between oxidative stress response and secondary metabolism in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus parasiticus. This well characterized model organism synthesizes the secondary metabolite and carcinogen aflatoxin. Chromatin immunoprecipitation with specific anti-AtfB demonstrated AtfB binding at promoters of seven genes in the aflatoxin gene cluster that carry CREs. Promoters lacking CREs did not show AtfB binding. The binding of AtfB to the promoters occurred under aflatoxin-inducing but not under aflatoxin-noninducing conditions and correlated with activation of transcription of the aflatoxin genes. Deletion of veA, a global regulator of secondary metabolism and development, nearly eliminated this binding. Electrophoretic mobility shift analysis demonstrated that AtfB binds to the nor-1 (an early aflatoxin gene) promoter at a composite regulatory element that consists of highly similar, adjacent CRE1 and AP-1-like binding sites. The five nucleotides immediately upstream from CRE1, AGCC(G/C), are highly conserved in five aflatoxin promoters that demonstrate AtfB binding. We propose that AtfB is a key player in the regulatory circuit that integrates secondary metabolism and cellular response to oxidative stress.
Anindya Chanda · ·