Identification of a mutarotase gene involved in D-galactose utilization inAspergillus nidulans

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Aldose 1-epimerases or mutarotases (EC are catalyzing the interconversion of α- and β-anomers of hemiacetals of aldose sugars such as D-glucose and D-galactose, and are presumed to play an auxiliary role in carbohydrate metabolism as mutarotation occurs spontaneously in watery solutions. The first step in the Leloir pathway of D-galactose breakdown is preceded by accelerated conversion of β-D-galactopyranose into the α-anomer, the substrate of the anomer-specific D-galactose 1-kinase. Here, we identified two putative aldose-1-epimerase genes (galmA and galmB) in the model organism Aspergillus nidulans, and characterized them upon generation of single- and double deletion mutant strains, as well as overexpressing mutants carrying multiple copies of either. Assaying cell-free extracts from the galmB single- and galm double mutants, we observed that the mutarotation hardly exceeded spontaneous anomer conversion, while galmB multicopy strains displayed higher activities than the wild type, increasing with the copy number. When grown on D-galactose in submerged cultures, biomass formation and D-galactose uptake rates in mutants lacking galmB were considerably reduced. None such effects were observed studying galmA deletion mutants, which consistently behave like the wild type. We conclude that GalmB is the physiologically relevant mutarotase for the utilization of D-galactose in A. nidulans.

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