Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Gregory May

Committee Member

Dr. Michelle Barton

Committee Member

Dr. Kevin Morano

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Lorenz

Committee Member

Dr. Dimitrios Kontoyiannis


Secondary metabolites are produced by numerous organisms and can either be benign to humans or harmful. Genes involved in the synthesis and transport of these secondary metabolites are frequently found in gene clusters, which are often located in subtelomeric regions of the chromosome. These clusters are often coordinately regulated, being almost exclusively dependent on transcription factors that are located within the clusters themselves. Secondary metabolites are also regulated by a variety of factors, including nutritional factors, environmental factors and developmental processes. Gliotoxin, which is produced by a variety of Aspergillus species, Trichoderma species, and Penicillium species, exhibits immunosuppressive properties and has therefore been the subject of research for many laboratories. There have been a few proteins shown to regulate the gliotoxin cluster, most notably GliZ, a Zn2Cys6 binuclear finger transcription factor that lies within the cluster, and LaeA, a putative methyltransferase that globally regulates secondary metabolism clusters within numerous fungal organisms, although no study has demonstrated the direct binding of any protein to a promoter region in the gliotoxin cluster.

I report here two novel proteins, GipA, a C2H2 transcription factor and GipB, a hybrid sensor kinase, which are involved in regulating the gliotoxin biosynthetic cluster. GipA plays an important role in gliotoxin production, as high-copy expression of gipA induces gliotoxin biosynthesis and loss of gipA reduces gliotoxin biosynthesis by 50%. GipB is also involved in regulating gliotoxin production, as high-copy expression of gipB induces gliotoxin biosynthesis, but only during certain stages of asexual development. Furthermore, loss of gipB reduces gliotoxin biosynthesis by 10%. Based on data obtained from this project, I propose a model for the regulation of gliA, the efflux pump of the gliotoxin cluster, which involves GipB signaling through both GliZ and GipA. I propose that GliZ and GipA are interdependent, as mutation of the GipA DNA binding site in the gliA promoter negatively affects both GliZ-mediated and GipA-mediated induction of gliA. This is further supported by the fact that GliZ cannot fully induce gliA in the absence of GipA and vice versa. This is the first time that anyone has shown evidence of a protein directly binding to the gliotoxin cluster. Even though biosynthetic clusters are often coordinately regulated, my model raises the possibility that gliA is independently regulated, as the layout of the binding site in the gliA promoter is not present upstream of any other genes in the gliotoxin cluster, except for gliZ.


Gliotoxin, Gene Transcription, Fungal genetics