Switching from a unicellular to multicellular organization in an Aspergillus niger hypha

Robert-Jan Bleichrodt, Marc Hulsman, H.A.B. Wosten, Marcel J T Reinders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


UNLABELLED: Pores in fungal septa enable cytoplasmic streaming between hyphae and their compartments. Consequently, the mycelium can be considered unicellular. However, we show here that Woronin bodies close ~50% of the three most apical septa of growing hyphae of Aspergillus niger. The incidence of closure of the 9th and 10th septa was even ≥94%. Intercompartmental streaming of photoactivatable green fluorescent protein (PA-GFP) was not observed when the septa were closed, but open septa acted as a barrier, reducing the mobility rate of PA-GFP ~500 times. This mobility rate decreased with increasing septal age and under stress conditions, likely reflecting a regulatory mechanism affecting septal pore diameter. Modeling revealed that such regulation offers effective control of compound concentration between compartments. Modeling also showed that the incidence of septal closure in A. niger had an even stronger impact on cytoplasmic continuity. Cytoplasm of hyphal compartments was shown not to be in physical contact when separated by more than 4 septa. Together, data show that apical compartments of growing hyphae behave unicellularly, while older compartments have a multicellular organization.

IMPORTANCE: The hyphae of higher fungi are compartmentalized by porous septa that enable cytosolic streaming. Therefore, it is believed that the mycelium shares cytoplasm. However, it is shown here that the septa of Aspergillus niger are always closed in the oldest part of the hyphae, and therefore, these compartments are physically isolated from each other. In contrast, only part of the septa is closed in the youngest part of the hyphae. Still, compartments in this hyphal part are physically isolated when separated by more than 4 septa. Even open septa act as a barrier for cytoplasmic mixing. The mobility rate through such septa reduces with increasing septal age and under stress conditions. Modeling shows that the septal pore width is set such that its regulation offers maximal control of compound concentration levels within the compartments. Together, we show for the first time that Aspergillus hyphae switch from a unicellular to multicellular organization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00111-15
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalMBio [E]
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Switching from a unicellular to multicellular organization in an Aspergillus niger hypha'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this