Structural Adaptation of Fungal Cell Wall in Hypersaline Environment

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Halophilic fungi, which thrive in hypersaline habitats and face a range of extreme conditions. These fungal species have gained considerable attention due to their potential applications in harsh industrial processes, such as bioremediation and fermentation under unfavorable conditions of hypersalinity, low water activity, and extreme pH. However, the role of the cell wall in surviving these environmental conditions remains unclear. Here we employ solid-state NMR spectroscopy to compare the cell wall architecture of Aspergillus sydowii across salinity gradients. Analyses of intact cells reveal that A. sydowii cell walls contain a rigid core comprising chitin, β-glucan, and chitosan, shielded by a surface shell composed of galactomannan and galactosaminogalactan. When exposed to hypersaline conditions, A. sydowii enhances chitin biosynthesis and incorporates α-glucan to create thick, stiff, and hydrophobic cell walls. Such structural rearrangements enable the fungus to adapt to both hypersaline and salt-deprived conditions, providing a robust mechanism for withstanding external stress. These molecular principles can aid in the optimization of halophilic strains for biotechnology applications.

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