Aspergillus niger citrate exporter revealed by comparison of two alternative citrate producing conditions

Odoni, Dorett I.; Vazquez-Vilar, Marta; Gaal, Merlijn P. van; Schonewille, Tom; Martins Dos Santos, Vitor A.P.; Tamayo-Ramos, Juan Antonio; Suarez-Diez, Maria; Schaap, Peter J.


Currently, there is no consensus regarding the mechanism underlying Aspergillus niger citrate biosynthesis and secretion. We hypothesise that depending on the experimental setup, extracellular citrate accumulation can have fundamentally different underlying transcriptomic landscapes. We show that varying the amount and type of supplement of an arginine auxotrophic A. niger strain results in transcriptional down-regulation of citrate metabolising enzymes in the condition in which more citrate is accumulated extracellularly. This contrasts with the transcriptional adaptations when increased citrate production is triggered by iron limitation. By combining gene expression data obtained from these two very distinct experimental setups with hidden Markov models and transporter homology approaches, we were able to compile a shortlist of the most likely citrate transporter candidates. Two candidates (An17g01710 and An09g06720m.01) were heterologously expressed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and one of the resultant mutants showed the ability to secrete citrate. Our findings provide steps in untangling the complex interplay of different mechanisms underlying A. niger citrate accumulation, and we demonstrate how a comparative transcriptomics approach complemented with further bioinformatics analyses can be used to pinpoint a fungal citrate exporter.