Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Cell Wall Dynamics in Aspergillus niger

This functional genomics project aims at understanding the biology of the underlying mycelium differentiation and autolysis processes in much more detail.

2008  -   2013
Arthur Ram
IOP-genomics program

Prof. M. van den Maarel - University Groningen

Prof. Han Wosten - University Utrecht

The objective of this project is to obtain fundamental insights into the cellular mechanisms involved in the differentiation of hyphae and better understand those processes that control autolysis of hyphae. This knowledge will be used by the industrial partners to design new strategies to optimize fungal fermentations that are based on increasing the number of hyphae in the mycelium that contribute to protein secretion and on the prevention of autolysis during the later stages of fermentation.

The filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger is famous for its protein and enormous metabolite secretion capacity and therefore widely used by fermentation industries for the production of industrial enzymes, food ingredients and pharmaceuticals.

Growth of filamentous fungi, including A. niger, is fundamentally very different from growth of bacteria and yeasts. Whereas bacteria and yeasts are unicellular organisms that multiply by cell division, filamentous fungi are multicellular organisms that form a large and dynamic mycelial network consisting of interconnected hyphae.

This functional genomics project aims at understanding the biology of the underlying mycelium differentiation and autolysis processes in much more detail. Three academic research groups of the Universities of Leiden, Utrecht and Groningen, all experts in research on A. niger, will work closely together with the participating industrial partners DSM and KBS, in using genome wide expression analysis, bioinformatics, and various tools from molecular biology and biochemistry to study the processes of autolysis and differentiation. The fundamental insights obtained will be used by the industrial partners to further optimize A. niger as a cell factory for the production of enzymes and other commercial products.

  • Nitsche BM, Crabtree J, Cerqueira GC, Meyer V, Ram AF, Wortman JR. 2011. New resources for functional analysis of omics data for the genus Aspergillus. BMC Genomics. 12:486.
  • Nitsche BM, Jørgensen TR, Akeroyd M, Meyer V, Ram AF. (2012). The carbon starvation response of Aspergillus niger during submerged cultivation: Insights from the transcriptome and secretome.  BMC Genomics, 13:380.
  • Nitsche BM, Burggraaf-van Welzen AM, Lamers G, Meyer V, Ram AF (2013) Autophagy promotes survival in aging submerged cultures of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97: 8205–8218.
  • van Munster JM*, Burggraaf AM*, Pocsi I, Szilágyi M, Emr Ti and  Ram AF. Post-genomic approaches to dissect carbon starvation responses in Aspergilli. In: Penicillium and Aspergillus in the post-genome era I. Benoit, M. Andersen and R.P. de Vries (Eds). *equal contributions
  • van Munster JM, Nitsche BM, Akeroyd M, Dijkhuizen L, van der Maarel MJ, Ram AF. 2015. Systems Approaches to Predict the Functions of Glycoside Hydrolases during the Life Cycle of Aspergillus niger Using Developmental Mutants ∆brlA and ∆flbA. PLoS One, 10(1):e0116269.

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