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Chitin synthases catalyze the formation of β-(1,4)-glycosidic bonds between N-acetylglucosamine residues to form the unbranched polysaccharide chitin, which is the major component of cell walls in most filamentous fungi. Several studies have shown that chitin synthases are structurally and functionally divergent and play crucial roles in the growth and morphogenesis of the genus Aspergillus although little research on this topic has been done in Penicillium chrysogenum. We used BLAST to find the genes encoding chitin synthases in P. chrysogenum related to chitin synthase genes in Aspergillus nidulans. Three homologous sequences coding for a class III chitin synthase CHS4 and two hypothetical proteins in P. chrysogenum were found. The gene which product showed the highest identity and encoded the class III chitin synthase CHS4 was studied in detail. To investigate the role of CHS4 in P. chrysogenum morphogenesis, we developed an RNA interference system to silence the class III chitin synthase gene chs4. After transformation, mutants exhibited a slow growth rate and shorter and more branched hyphae, which were distinct from those of the original strain. The results also showed that the conidiation efficiency of all transformants was reduced sharply and indicated that chs4 is essential in conidia development. The morphologies of all transformants and the original strain in penicillin production were investigated by light microscopy, which showed that changes in chs4 expression led to a completely different morphology during fermentation and eventually caused distinct penicillin yields, especially in the transformants PcRNAi1-17 and PcRNAi2-1 where penicillin production rose by 27 % and 41 %, respectively.


Hui Liu, Zhiming Zheng, Peng Wang, Guohong Gong, Li Wang, Genhai Zhao. Morphological changes induced by class III chitin synthase gene silencing could enhance penicillin production of Penicillium chrysogenum. Applied microbiology and biotechnology. 2013 Apr;97(8):3363-72

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PMID: 23179625

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