The April issue of the journal Genetics, published by the Genetics Society of America (GSA), has devoted its front cover to an article published by researchers of the Faculty of Chemistry of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Donostia-San Sebastian; it is entitled 'Beyond Asexual Development: Modifications in the Gene Expression Profile Caused by the Absence of the Aspergillus nidulans Transcription Factor FlbB'.
The research work was led by the lecturers Oier Etxebeste and Unai Ugalde, together with Eduardo Espeso of the Centre for Biological Research (CSIC-National Scientific Research Council) and Ana Gorostidi of the BioDonostia Institute. The experimental work was conducted by Aitor García, a post-doctoral researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York, and Elixabet Oiartzabal-Arano, a PhD student at the UPV/EHU.
The image on the front cover was produced by the designer and tattoo artist Pablo Hernández and Elixabet Oiartzabal-Arano. This synergy between urban art and science shows the cell structure that gives rise to asexual spores, or conidia, of the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans, while the background depicts the results obtained in the RNA sequencing carried out.
Fungi can have a great economic impact. In industry they are used as a source of enzymes or antibiotics. But they can also cause considerable economic damage as they are responsible for infections in plants (rice, wheat, maize, etc.), fruit and humans. Their capacity to cause infection increases due to the rapid dispersion of their conidia in the air or through other mediums.
The article published in Genetics is related to the basic line of research being conducted by this group which belongs to the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Chemistry and which is analysing the genetic and molecular processes that lead to conidia generation.
"We have selected," explained the lecturer Oier Etxebeste, "a fungus strain that is capable of forming conidia and thus of propagating itself via various mediums, and a mutant strain that is incapable of performing this task. Then from each one we extracted their RNA, which is the intermediary between the molecule that stores the information needed for cells to function, the DNA, and the molecule that executes this information, the proteins. The sequencing and comparison of the two samples enable a general overview of the cell processes that are affected in the mutant strain that cannot form conidia. After that, we identified new genes that play a role in controlling development and others that intervene in synthesising a molecule that allows the fungus to defend itself against other micro-organisms. The aim is to find out the mechanisms that filamentous fungi use to propagate themselves, and thus further the development of new strategies for controlling the infections they cause."
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