In carbon-depleted cultures of Penicillium chrysogenum, age-related chitinases were shown to play a crucial role in both autolysis and fragmentation as indicated by in vivo enzyme inhibition experiments using allosamidin. This pseudotrisaccharide even hindered significantly the outgrowth of new hyphal tips from the surviving yeastlike fragments after glucose supplementation. The antifungal effect of allosamidin on autolyzing P. chrysogenum mycelia was fungistatic rather than fungicidal. In growing hyphae, membrane-bound microsomal chitinase zymogen(s) were detected, which may be indicative of some compartmentalization of these hydrolases. Later, during autolysis, no zymogenic chitinase was detected in any enzyme fraction studied, including microsomes. These observations may explain the different sensitivity of growing and autolyzing mycelia to allosamidin. Chitinases taking part in the age-related fragmentation of hyphae and the outgrowth of surviving hyphal fragments seem to be potent targets for future antifungal drug research.
2001 by The Applied Microbiology, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research Foundation