Correlating sugar transporter expression and activities to identify transporters for an orphan sugar substrate

Elisabeth Tamayo, Basant Nada, Isabell Hafermann, J. Philipp Benz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: Filamentous fungi like Neurospora crassa are able to take up and metabolize important sugars present, for example, in agricultural and human food wastes. However, only a fraction of all putative sugar transporters in filamentous fungi has been characterized to date, and for many sugar substrates, the corresponding transporters are unknown. In N. crassa, only 14 out of the 42 putative major facilitator superfamily (MFS)–type sugar transporters have been characterized so far. To uncover this hidden potential for biotechnology, it is therefore necessary to find new strategies. By correlation of the uptake profile of sugars of interest after different induction conditions with the expression profiles of all 44 genes encoding predicted sugar transporters in N. crassa, together with an exhaustive phylogenetic analysis using sequences of characterized fungal sugar transporters, we aimed to identify transporter candidates for the tested sugars. Following this approach, we found a high correlation of uptake rates and expression strengths for many sugars with dedicated transporters, like galacturonic acid and arabinose, while the correlation is loose for sugars that are transported by several transporters due to functional redundancy. Nevertheless, this combinatorial approach allowed us to elucidate the uptake system for the disaccharide lactose, a by-product of the dairy industry, which consists of the two main cellodextrin transporters CDT-1 and CDT-2 with a minor contribution of the related transporter NCU00809. Moreover, a non-MFS transporter involved in glycerol transport was also identified. Deorphanization of sugar transporters or identification of transporters for orphan sugar substrates by correlation of uptake kinetics with transporter expression and phylogenetic information can thus provide a way to optimize the reuse of food industry by-products and agricultural wastes by filamentous fungi in order to create economic value and reduce their environmental impact. Key points: • The Neurospora crassa genome contains 30 uncharacterized putative sugar transporter genes. • Correlation of transporter expression and sugar uptake profiles can help to identify transporters for orphan sugar substrates. • CDT-1, CDT-2, and NCU00809 are key players in the transport of the dairy by-product lactose in N. crassa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Lactose
  • Major facilitator superfamily
  • Neurospora crassa
  • Sugar transport


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