BACKGROUND: Aspergillus niger is an ascomycetous fungus that is known to reproduce through asexual spores, only. Interestingly, recent genome analysis of A. niger has revealed the presence of a full complement of functional genes related to sexual reproduction 1. An example of such genes are the dioxygenase genes which in Aspergillus nidulans, have been shown to be connected to oxylipin production and regulation of both sexual and asexual sporulation 234. Nevertheless, the presence of sex related genes alone does not confirm sexual sporulation in A. niger.
RESULTS: The current study shows experimentally that A. niger produces the oxylipins 8,11-dihydroxy octadecadienoic acid (8,11-diHOD), 5,8-dihydroxy octadecadienoic acid (5,8-diHOD), lactonized 5,8-diHOD, 8-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (8-HOD), 10-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (10-HOD), small amounts of 8-hydroxy octadecamonoenoic acid (8-HOM), 9-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (9-HOD) and 13-hydroxy octadecadienoic acid (13-HOD). Importantly, this study shows that the A. niger genome contains three putative dioxygenase genes, ppoA, ppoC and ppoD. Expression analysis confirmed that all three genes are indeed expressed under the conditions tested.
CONCLUSION: A. niger produces the same oxylipins and has similar dioxygenase genes as A. nidulans. Their presence could point towards the existence of sexual reproduction in A. niger or a broader role for the gene products in physiology, than just sexual development.