Background: Laccases, copper-based polyphenol oxidases, played vital roles in lignin and humus degradation as well as fruiting body formation and stress response. Sixteen putative laccase genes (Lacc1-Lacc16) were reported in the genome of white-rot fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Members in this multi-gene family usually had close inter-relationships and may vary in the roles contributing to functions. Identifying the interactions among multiple genes and thus the conjoined consequence to an activity was essential for systematically unraveling the molecular mechanisms of laccase and improving laccase activity.
Methods: In this study, multivariate statistical analysis was applied to track the relationship between thetranscriptional level of laccase genes and the total enzymatic activities. We outlined and compared the interaction networks among the transcriptional levels of 16 laccase genes and associations with the total enzymatic activities with or without copper ion (Cu 2+ ).
Results: A multi-gene interaction network among the sixteen genes and laccase activity was constructed to figure out the changes induced by Cu 2+ . The interaction network showed that the enzyme activity was the result of interactions among genes, and these interactions might vary with the presence of Cu 2+ , subsequently leading to the alteration of enzyme activity. Some genes always kept relation with enzyme activity (positive or negative, Lacc13, Lacc10), some were irrelevant (Lacc1, Lacc6), while another some were inconsistent (Lacc3, Lacc8, Lacc14 and Lacc15).
Discussion: Network-based methods were applied to identify key functional genes and to outline associations among genes and phenotype in laccase multi-gene family. This is an exploratory strategy to describe the transcriptional complexity of laccase and its relevant responses to Cu 2+ stress. The identified key functional genes associated with laccase activity (e.g. Lacc10, Lacc13) and the associations among genes and activity will benefit for the regulation of enzyme activity.