Date of this Version
Mycologia, 99(6), 2007, pp. 804–811.
Ergot alkaloids are mycotoxins that affect the nervous and reproductive systems of exposed individuals through interactions with monoamine receptors. They have been studied more widely in ergot fungi and grass endophytes but also are found in Aspergillus fumigatus, an opportunistic human pathogen that reproduces and disseminates exclusively through conidia. The ergot alkaloids festuclavine and fumigaclavines A, B and C are present in or on conidia of A. fumigatus. Cultures of the fungus that are free of conidia are difficult to obtain, obscuring comparisons of conidia versus vegetative hyphae as sources of the ergot alkaloids. To create conidiation-deficient strains of A. fumigatus we manipulated the bristle A gene (brlA), which controls vesicle formation or budding growth necessary for conidiation in Aspergillus spp. Disruption of brlA in A. fumigatus, via homologous recombination, resulted in a nonconidiating mutant that produced bristle-like structures instead of conidiophores and conidia. Moreover the disrupted strain failed to produce ergot alkaloids as verified by HPLC analyses. Complementation with a wild-type allele restored conidiation and ergot alkaloid production. These results suggest that ergot alkaloids are not produced within the vegetative mycelium of the fungus and are associated directly with conidiation.