Colonies of the fungus Aspergillus niger are highly differentiated to adapt to local carbon source variation

Paul Daly, Mao Peng, Hugh D. Mitchell, Young Mo Kim, Charles Ansong, Heather Brewer, Peter de Gijsel, Mary S. Lipton, Lye Meng Markillie, Carrie D. Nicora, Galya Orr, Ad Wiebenga, Kristiina S. Hildén, Mirjam A. Kabel, Scott E. Baker, Miia R. Mäkelä, Ronald P. de Vries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Saprobic fungi, such as Aspergillus niger, grow as colonies consisting of a network of branching and fusing hyphae that are often considered to be relatively uniform entities in which nutrients can freely move through the hyphae. In nature, different parts of a colony are often exposed to different nutrients. We have investigated, using a multi-omics approach, adaptation of A. niger colonies to spatially separated and compositionally different plant biomass substrates. This demonstrated a high level of intra-colony differentiation, which closely matched the locally available substrate. The part of the colony exposed to pectin-rich sugar beet pulp and to xylan-rich wheat bran showed high pectinolytic and high xylanolytic transcript and protein levels respectively. This study therefore exemplifies the high ability of fungal colonies to differentiate and adapt to local conditions, ensuring efficient use of the available nutrients, rather than maintaining a uniform physiology throughout the colony.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1154-1166
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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