Mitochondria play key roles in cellular energy generation and lifespan of most eukaryotes. To understand the functions of four nuclear-encoded genes predicted to be related to the maintenance of mitochondrial morphology and function in Aspergillus nidulans, systematic characterization was carried out. The deletion and overexpression mutants of aodA, dnmA, mnSOD and pimA encoding alternative oxidase, dynamin related protein, manganese superoxide dismutase and Lon protease, respectively, were generated and examined for their growth, stress tolerances, respiration, autolysis, cell death, sterigmatocystin production, hyphal morphology and size, and mitochondrial superoxide production as well as development. Overall, genetic manipulation of these genes had less effect on cellular physiology and ageing in A. nidulans than that of their homologs in another fungus Podospora anserina with a well-characterized senescence. The observed interspecial phenotypic differences can be explained by the dissimilar intrinsic stabilities of the mitochondrial genomes in A. nidulans and P. anserina. Furthermore, the marginally altered phenotypes observed in A. nidulans mutants indicate the presence of effective compensatory mechanisms for the complex networks of mitochondrial defense and quality control. Importantly, these findings can be useful for developing novel platforms for heterologous protein production, or on new biocontrol and bioremediation technologies based on Aspergillus species.
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