The move could help both industry and academia further exploit the fungus for the production of enzymes and organic acids. Currently, these ingredients are mainly used to improve taste, shelf life, texture and nutritional value in a range of foods, like bread, cheese, fruit juices, and beer.
"The unravelling of the DNA sequence not only accelerates the development of new products, but also enables us to study the highly complex physiological behaviour of Aspergillus niger with the help of the most advanced biological analysis techniques such as DNA micro-array analysis, proteomics and bio-informatics and use the insights gained to improve production processes," said lead author of the study Dr Herman Pel from DSM Food Specialties.
Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Pel and his 69 co-workers from 29 research groups, report that a reconstructed metabolic network comprising 1,069 unique reactions illustrates the versatile metabolism of the fungus, as well as suggesting many possibilities.
The A. niger genome project has resulted in numerous patent filings by DSM, said the company, and has laid the basis for a number of new DSM products such as Brewers Clarex, an enzyme for preventing chill-haze in beers, PreventASe, an enzyme for preventing the formation of the toxic compound acrylamide during baking or frying of certain foodstuffs, and PeptoPro, an ingredient for muscular recovery after physical exertion.
"DSM realizes that the Aspergillus niger genome is of great interest to many other parties, both in industry and the academic world. DSM is releasing the DNA sequence to enable further research in this field," said DSM's chief innovation officer Rob van Leen. "We are very pleased about this publication, which fits perfectly in our open-innovation policy."
Genome sequencing of the fungus began in 2000 and, according to the company, grew into one of the most important industrial genomics projects in Europe. The project is said to have resulted in a high-quality genome sequence of 33.9 million base pairs with more than 14,000 unique genes. And the (possible) functions of around 6500 of these genes were established.
"Further research on Aspergillus niger could help identify other possible uses of this micro-organism (such as in the sustainable use of raw materials). With the functions of some 7500 genes still unknown, scientific researchers have plenty of challenges to deal with in the future," said Hein Stam who coordinated the publication of the genome.
Source: Nature Biotechnology Published online: 28 January 2007; doi:10.1038/nbt1282 "Genome sequencing and analysis of the versatile cell factory Aspergillus niger CBS 513.88" Authors: H.J. Pel, J.H. de Winde, D.B. Archer, P.S. Dyer, G. Hofmann et al.