Aspergillus niger is a filamentous fungus well known for its ability to produce a wide variety of pectinolytic enzymes, which have many applications in the industry. The transcriptional activator GaaR is induced by 2-keto-3-deoxy-L-galactonate, a compound derived from D-galacturonic acid, and plays a major role in the regulation of pectinolytic genes. The requirement for inducer molecules can be a limiting factor for the production of enzymes. Therefore, the generation of chimeric transcription factors able to activate the expression of pectinolytic genes by using underutilized agricultural residues would be highly valuable for industrial applications. In this study, we used the CRISPR/Cas9 system to generate three chimeric GaaR-XlnR transcription factors expressed by the xlnR promoter by swapping the N-terminal region of the xylanolytic regulator XlnR to that of the GaaR in A. niger. As a test case, we constructed a PpgaX-hph reporter strain to evaluate the alteration of transcription factor specificity in the chimeric mutants. Our results showed that the chimeric GaaR-XlnR transcription factor was induced in the presence of D-xylose. Additionally, we generated a constitutively active GaaR-XlnR V756F version of the most efficient chimeric transcription factor to better assess its activity. Proteomics analysis confirmed the production of several pectinolytic enzymes by ΔgaaR mutants carrying the chimeric transcription factor. This correlates with the improved release of D-galacturonic acid from pectin by the GaaR-XlnR V756F mutant, as well as by the increased L-arabinose release from the pectin side chains by both chimeric mutants under inducing condition, which is required for efficient degradation of pectin. KEY POINTS: • Chimeric transcription factors were generated by on-site mutations using CRISPR/Cas9. • PpgaX-hph reporter strain allowed for the screening of functional GaaR-XlnR mutants. • Chimeric GaaR-XlnR induced pectinolytic activities in the presence of D-xylose.
- Aspergillus niger/genetics
- Fungal Proteins/genetics
- Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
- Transcription Factors/genetics