Deazaflavin metabolite produced by endosymbiotic bacteria controls fungal host reproduction.

Richter I, Hasan M, Kramer JW, Wein P, Krabbe J, Woitas KP, Stinear TP, Pidot SJ, Kloss F, Hertweck C, Lackner G (2024) Deazaflavin metabolite produced by endosymbiotic bacteria controls fungal host reproduction. ISME J 18(1), wrae074.


The endosymbiosis between the pathogenic fungus Rhizopus microsporus and the toxin-producing bacterium Mycetohabitans rhizoxinica represents a unique example of host control by an endosymbiont. Fungal sporulation strictly depends on the presence of endosymbionts as well as bacterially produced secondary metabolites. However, an influence of primary metabolites on host control remained unexplored. Recently, we discovered that M. rhizoxinica produces FO and 3PG-F420, a derivative of the specialized redox cofactor F420. Whether FO/3PG-F420 plays a role in the symbiosis has yet to be investigated. Here, we report that FO, the precursor of 3PG-F420, is essential to the establishment of a stable symbiosis. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the genetic inventory to produce cofactor 3PG-F420 is conserved in the genomes of eight endofungal Mycetohabitans strains. By developing a CRISPR/Cas-assisted base editing strategy for M. rhizoxinica, we generated mutant strains deficient in 3PG-F420 (M. rhizoxinica ΔcofC) and in both FO and 3PG-F420 (M. rhizoxinica ΔfbiC). Co-culture experiments demonstrated that the sporulating phenotype of apo-symbiotic R. microsporus is maintained upon reinfection with wild-type M. rhizoxinica or M. rhizoxinica ΔcofC. In contrast, R. microsporus is unable to sporulate when co-cultivated with M. rhizoxinica ΔfbiC, even though the fungus was observed by super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to be successfully colonized. Genetic and chemical complementation of the FO deficiency of M. rhizoxinica ΔfbiC led to restoration of fungal sporulation, signifying that FO is indispensable for establishing a functional symbiosis. Even though FO is known for its light-harvesting properties, our data illustrate an important role of FO in inter-kingdom communication.


Mahmudul Hasan
Christian Hertweck
Florian Kloß
Jana Krabbe
Johannes Kramer
Gerald Lackner
Ingrid Richter
Philipp Wein
Philip Wojtas


doi: 10.1093/ismejo/wrae074

PMID: 38691425