A Penicillium chrysogenum-based expression system for the production of small, cysteine-rich antifungal proteins for structural and functional analyses

Christoph Sonderegger, László Galgóczy, Sandra Garrigues, Ádám Fizil, Attila Borics, Paloma Manzanares, Nikoletta Hegedüs, Anna Huber, Jose F. Marcos, Gyula Batta, Florentine Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Small, cysteine-rich and cationic antifungal proteins (APs) from filamentous ascomycetes, such as NFAP from Neosartorya fischeri and PAF from Penicillium chrysogenum, are promising candidates for novel drug development. A prerequisite for their application is a detailed knowledge about their structure-function relation and mode of action, which would allow protein modelling to enhance their toxicity and specificity. Technologies for structure analyses, such as electronic circular dichroism (ECD) or NMR spectroscopy, require highly purified samples and in case of NMR milligrams of uniformly 15N-/13C-isotope labelled protein. To meet these requirements, we developed a P. chrysogenum-based expression system that ensures sufficient amount and optimal purity of APs for structural and functional analyses. Results: The APs PAF, PAF mutants and NFAP were expressed in a P. chrysogenum paf mutant strain that served as perfect microbial expression factory. This strain lacks the paf-gene coding for the endogenous antifungal PAF and is resistant towards several APs from other ascomycetes. The expression of the recombinant proteins was under the regulation of the strong paf promoter, and the presence of a paf-specific pre-pro sequence warranted the secretion of processed proteins into the supernatant. The use of defined minimal medium allowed a single-step purification of the recombinant proteins. The expression system could be extended to express PAF in the related fungus Penicillium digitatum, which does not produce detectable amounts of APs, demonstrating the versatility of the approach. The molecular masses, folded structures and antifungal activity of the recombinant proteins were analysed by ESI-MS, ECD and NMR spectroscopy and growth inhibition assays. Conclusion: This study demonstrates the implementation of a paf promoter driven expression cassettes for the production of cysteine-rich, cationic, APs in different Penicillium species. The system is a perfect tool for the generation of correctly folded proteins with high quality for structure-function analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
JournalMicrobial cell factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 11 2016



  • Antifungal proteins
  • Electronic circular dichroism (ECD) spectroscopy
  • NFAP
  • Neosartorya fischeri
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
  • PAF
  • Penicillium chrysogenum
  • Penicillium digitatum
  • Recombinant protein production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

Cite this

Sonderegger, C., Galgóczy, L., Garrigues, S., Fizil, Á., Borics, A., Manzanares, P., Hegedüs, N., Huber, A., Marcos, J. F., Batta, G., & Marx, F. (2016). A Penicillium chrysogenum-based expression system for the production of small, cysteine-rich antifungal proteins for structural and functional analyses. Microbial cell factories, 15(1), [192]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12934-016-0586-4