Accepted post-doctoral position at Michigan State University after receiving PhD
Now employed as Assistant Professor, Math and Science Department, at the College of the Mainland, Texas City, TX
Light absorption is an important process for energy production and sensory perception in many organisms. In the filamentous fungus, Neurospora crassa, blue-light is an important regulator of both asexual and sexual development, but the identity of the blue-light receptor is unknown. The work presented in this dissertation initiated the characterization of the putative N. crassa opsin photoreceptor, NOP-1. Opsins were thought to exist only in the archaea and mammals until the discovery of nop-1. All opsins have the same conserved structure of seven transmembrane helical domains with a lysine residue in the seventh helix specific for forming a Schiff-base linkage with retinal. The predicted NOP-1 protein sequence is equally similar to archaeal rhodopsins and a newly identified fungal opsin-related protein group (ORPs). ORPs maintain the seven transmembrane helical structure of opsins, but lack the conserved lysine residue for binding retinal. An ORP gene, orp-1 was identified in N. crassa and this work includes the cloning and sequence analysis of this gene. Characterization of NOP-1 function in N. crassa development began with the construction of a Dnop-1 deletion mutant. Extensive phenotypic analysis of Dnop-1 mutants revealed only subtle defects during development primarily under environmental conditions that induce a stress response. NOP-1 was overexpressed in the heterologous system Pichia pastoris, and it was demonstrated that NOP-1 protein bound all-trans retinal to form a green-light absorbing pigment (lmax = 534 nm) with a photochemical reaction cycle similar to archaeal sensory rhodopsins. nop-1 gene expression was monitored during N. crassa development. nop-1 transcript is highly expressed during asexual sporulation (conidiation) and transcript levels are abundant in the later stages of conidial development. nop-1 expression is not regulated by blue-light or elevated temperatures. Potential functions for NOP-1 were discovered through the transcriptional analysis of conidiation-associated genes in Dnop-1 mutants. NOP-1 exhibits antagonistic transcriptional regulation of conidiation-associated genes late in conidial development, by enhancing the carotenogenic gene, al-2 (in a light-dependent manner) and repressing the conidiation-specific genes, con-10 and con-13 (in a light-independent manner).
Characterization of the NOP-1 Opsin Photoreceptor in the Filamentous Fungus Neurospora crassa