Coding tandem repeats generate diversity in Aspergillus fumigatus genes

Emma Levdansky, Jacob Romano, Yona Shadkchan, Haim Sharon, Kevin J. Verstrepen, Gerald R. Fink, Nir Osherov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genes containing multiple coding mini- and microsatellite repeats are highly dynamic components of genomes. Frequent recombination events within these tandem repeats lead to changes in repeat numbers, which in turn alters the amino acid sequence of the corresponding protein. In bacteria and yeasts, the expansion of such coding repeats in cell wall proteins is associated with alterations in immunogenicity, adhesion, and pathogenesis. We hypothesized that identification of repeat-containing putative cell wall proteins in the human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus may reveal novel pathogenesis-related elements. Here, we report that the genome of A. fumigatus contains as many as 292 genes with internal repeats. Fourteen of 30 selected genes snowed size variation of their repeat-containing regions among 11 clinical A. fumigatus isolates. Four of these genes, Afu3g08990, Afu2g05150 (MP-2), Afu4g09600, and Afu6g14090, encode putative cell wall proteins containing a leader sequence and a glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor motif. All four genes are expressed and produce variable-size mRNA encoding a discrete number of repeat amino acid units. Their expression was altered during development and in response to cell wall-disrupting agents. Deletion of one of these genes, Afu3g08990, resulted in a phenotype characterized by rapid conidial germination and reduced adherence to extracellular matrix suggestive of an alteration in cell wall characteristics. The Afu3g08990 protein was localized to the cell walls of dormant and germinating conidia. Our findings suggest that a subset of the A. fumigatus cell surface proteins may be hypervariable due to recombination events in their internal tandem repeats. This variation may provide the functional diversity in cell surface antigens which allows rapid adaptation to the environment and/or elusion of the host immune system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1380-1391
Number of pages12
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


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