Ferrochelatase is a conserved downstream target of the blue light-sensing White collar complex in fungi.
Light is a universal signal perceived by organisms, including fungi, in which light regulates common and unique biological processes depending on the species. Previous research has established that conserved proteins, originally called White collar 1 and 2 from the ascomycete Neurospora crassa, regulate UV/blue light sensing. Homologous proteins function in distant relatives of N. crassa, including the basidiomycetes and zygomycetes, which diverged as long as a billion years ago. Here we conducted microarray experiments on the basidiomycete fungus Cryptococcus neoformans to identify light-regulated genes. Surprisingly, only a single gene was induced by light above the commonly used twofold threshold. This gene, HEM15, is predicted to encode a ferrochelatase that catalyses the final step in haem biosynthesis from highly photoreactive porphyrins. The C. neoformans gene complements a Saccharomyces cerevisiae hem15Delta strain and is essential for viability, and the Hem15 protein localizes to mitochondria, three lines of evidence that the gene encodes ferrochelatase. Regulation of HEM15 by light suggests a mechanism by which bwc1/bwc2 mutants are photosensitive and exhibit reduced virulence. We show that ferrochelatase is also light-regulated in a white collar-dependent fashion in N. crassa and the zygomycete Phycomyces blakesleeanus, indicating that ferrochelatase is an ancient target of photoregulation in the fungal kingdom.
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