The role of zinc in gliotoxin biosynthesis of aspergillus fumigatus

Hyewon Seo, Suzie Kang, Yong Sung Park, Cheol Won Yun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Zinc performs diverse physiological functions, and virtually all living organisms require zinc as an essential trace element. To identify the detailed function of zinc in fungal pathogenicity, we carried out cDNA microarray analysis using the model system of Aspergillus fumigatus, a fungal pathogen. From microarray analysis, we found that the genes involved in gliotoxin biosynthesis were upregulated when zinc was depleted, and the microarray data were confirmed by northern blot analysis. In particular, zinc deficiency upregulated the expression of GliZ, which encodes a Zn2-Cys6 binuclear transcription factor that regulates the expression of the genes required for gliotoxin biosynthesis. The production of gliotoxin was decreased in a manner inversely proportional to the zinc concentration, and the same result was investigated in the absence of ZafA, which is a zinc-dependent transcription activator. Interestingly, we found two conserved ZafA-binding motifs, 5-CAAGGT-3, in the upstream region of GliZ on the genome and discovered that deletion of the ZafA-binding motifs resulted in loss of ZafA-binding activity; gliotoxin production was decreased dramatically, as demonstrated with a GliZ deletion mutant. Furthermore, mutation of the ZafA-binding motifs resulted in an increase in the conidial killing activity of human macrophage and neutrophil cells, and virulence was decreased in a murine model. Finally, transcriptomic analysis revealed that the expression of ZafA and GliZ was upregulated during phagocytosis by macrophages. Taken together, these results suggest that zinc plays an important role in the pathogenicity of A. fumigatus by regulating gliotoxin production during the phagocytosis pathway to overcome the host defense system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6192
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 2


  • A. Fumigatus
  • GliZ
  • Gliotoxin
  • ZafA
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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