Doxycycline-regulated gene expression in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus

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Background: Although Aspergillus fumigatus is an important human fungal pathogen there are few expression systems available to study the contribution of specific genes to the growth and virulence of this opportunistic mould. Regulatable promoter systems based upon prokaryotic regulatory elements in the E. coli tetracycline-resistance operon have been successfully used to manipulate gene expression in several organisms, including mice, flies, plants, and yeast. However, the system has not yet been adapted for Aspergillus spp. Results: Here we describe the construction of plasmid vectors that can be used to regulate gene expression in A. fumigatus using a simple co-transfection approach. Vectors were generated in which the tetracycline transactivator (tTA) or the reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA2s-M2) are controlled by the A. nidulans gpdA promoter. Dominant selectable cassettes were introduced into each plasmid, allowing for selection following gene transfer into A. fumigatus by incorporating phleomycin or hygromycin into the medium. To model an essential gene under tetracycline regulation, the E. coli hygromycin resistance gene, hph, was placed under the control of seven copies of the TetR binding site (tetO7) in a plasmid vector and co-transfected into A. fumigatus protoplasts together with one of the two transactivator plasmids. Since the hph gene is essential to A. fumigatus in the presence of hygromycin, resistance to hygromycin was used as a marker of hph reporter gene expression. Transformants were identified in which the expression of tTA conferred hygromycin resistance by activating expression of the tetO7-hph reporter gene, and the addition of doxycycline to the medium suppressed hygromycin resistance in a dose-dependent manner. Similarly, transformants were identified in which expression of rtTA2s-M2 conferred hygromycin resistance only in the presence of doxycycline. The levels of doxycycline required to regulate expression of the tetO7-hph reporter gene were within non-toxic ranges for this organism, and low-iron medium was shown to reduce the amount of doxycycline required to accomplish regulation. Conclusions: The vectors described in this report provide a new set of options to experimentally manipulate the level of specific gene products in A. fumigatus. © 2005 Vogt et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Vogt, K., Bhabhra, R., Rhodes, J. C., & Askew, D. S. (2005). Doxycycline-regulated gene expression in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. BMC Microbiology, 5.

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