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Evol Bioinform Online. 2009 Jun 4;5:15-30.

Phylogenetic analyses reveal monophyletic origin of the ergot alkaloid gene dmaW in fungi.

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  • 1201 F Plant Science Bldg, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA.


Ergot alkaloids are indole-derived mycotoxins that are important in agriculture and medicine. Ergot alkaloids are produced by a few representatives of two distantly related fungal lineages, the Clavicipitaceae and the Trichocomaceae. Comparison of the ergot alkaloid gene clusters from these two lineages revealed differences in the relative positions and orientations of several genes. The question arose: is ergot alkaloid biosynthetic capability from a common origin? We used a molecular phylogenetic approach to gain insights into the evolution of ergot alkaloid biosynthesis. The 4-gamma,gamma-dimethylallyltryptophan synthase gene, dmaW, encodes the first step in the pathway. Amino acid sequences deduced from dmaW and homologs were submitted to phylogenetic analysis, and the results indicated that dmaW of Aspergillus fumigatus (mitosporic Trichocomaceae) has the same origin as corresponding genes from clavicipitaceous fungi. Relationships of authentic dmaW genes suggest that they originated from multiple gene duplications with subsequent losses of original or duplicate versions in some lineages.


4-γ,γ-dimethylallyltryptophan synthase gene; Clavicipitaceae; GBlocks; Trichocomaceae; amino acid sequence; gene phylogeny; mycotoxins

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