Proteome analysis of Aspergillus flavus isolate-specific responses to oxidative stress in relationship to aflatoxin production capability
Aspergillus flavus is an opportunistic pathogen of plants such as maize and peanut under conducive conditions such as drought stress resulting in significant aflatoxin production. Drought-associated oxidative stress also exacerbates aflatoxin production by A. flavus. The objectives of this study were to use proteomics to provide insights into the pathogen responses to H2O2-derived oxidative stress, and to identify potential biomarkers and targets for host resistance breeding. Three isolates, AF13, NRRL3357, and K54A with high, moderate, and no aflatoxin production, were cultured in medium supplemented with varying levels of H2O2, and examined using an iTRAQ (Isobaric Tags for Relative and Absolute Quantification) approach. Overall, 1,173 proteins were identified and 220 were differentially expressed (DEPs). Observed DEPs encompassed metabolic pathways including antioxidants, carbohydrates, pathogenicity, and secondary metabolism. Increased lytic enzyme, secondary metabolite, and developmental pathway expression in AF13 was correlated with oxidative stress tolerance, likely assisting in plant infection and microbial competition. Elevated expression of energy and cellular component production in NRRL3357 and K54A implies a focus on oxidative damage remediation. These trends explain isolate-to-isolate variation in oxidative stress tolerance and provide insights into mechanisms relevant to host plant interactions under drought stress allowing for more targeted efforts in host resistance research.