mBio 13(3) , e00628-22 ( 2022)
Wood-decaying fungi of the class Agaricomycetes (phylum Basidiomycota) are saprotrophs that break down lignocellulose and play an important role in nutrient recycling. They secrete a wide range of extracellular plant cell wall degrading enzymes that break down cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, the main building blocks of plant biomass. Although the production of these enzymes is regulated mainly at the transcriptional level, no activating regulators have been identified in any wood-decaying fungus in the class Agaricomycetes. We studied the regulation of cellulase expression in the wood-decaying fungus Schizophyllum commune. Comparative genomics and transcriptomics on two wild isolates revealed a Zn2Cys6-type transcription factor gene (roc1) that was highly upregulated during growth on cellulose, compared to glucose. It is only conserved in the class Agaricomycetes. A roc1 knockout strain showed an inability to grow on medium with cellulose as sole carbon source, and growth on cellobiose and xylan (other components of wood) was inhibited. Growth on non-wood-related carbon sources was not inhibited. Cellulase gene expression and enzyme activity were reduced in the Δroc1 strain. ChIP-Seq identified 1474 binding sites of the Roc1 transcription factor. Promoters of genes involved in lignocellulose degradation were enriched with these binding sites, especially those of LPMO (lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase) CAZymes, indicating that Roc1 directly regulates these genes. A conserved motif was identified as the binding site of Roc1, which was confirmed by a functional promoter analysis. Together, Roc1 is a key regulator of cellulose degradation and the first identified in wood-decaying fungi in the phylum Basidiomycota. IMPORTANCE Wood-degrading fungi in the phylum Basidiomycota play a crucial role in nutrient recycling by breaking down all components of wood. Fungi have evolved transcriptional networks that regulate expression of wood-degrading enzymes, allowing them to prioritize one nutrient source over another. However, to date all these transcription factors have been identified in the phylum Ascomycota, which is only distantly related to the phylum Basidiomycota. Here, we identified the transcription factor Roc1 as a key regulator of cellulose degradation in the mushroom-forming and wood-degrading fungus Schizophyllum commune. Roc1 is highly conserved in the phylum Basidiomycota. Using comparative genomics, transcriptomics, ChIP-Seq and promoter analysis we have identified direct targets of Roc1, as well as other aspects of the transcriptional response to cellulose.