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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Sep;68(9):4173-81.

Biodegradation of the polyketide toxin cercosporin.

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Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7616, USA.


Cercosporin is a non-host-specific polyketide toxin produced by many species of plant pathogens belonging to the genus Cercospora. This red-pigmented, light-activated toxin is an important pathogenicity determinant for Cercospora species. In this study, we screened 244 bacterial isolates representing 12 different genera for the ability to degrade cercosporin. Cercosporin degradation was determined by screening for the presence of cleared zones surrounding colonies on cercosporin-containing culture medium and was confirmed by assaying the kinetics of degradation in liquid medium. Bacteria belonging to four different genera exhibited the cercosporin-degrading phenotype. The isolates with the greatest cercosporin-degrading activity belonged to Xanthomonas campestris pv. zinniae and X. campestris pv. pruni. Isolates of these pathovars removed over 90% of the cercosporin from culture medium within 48 h. Bacterial degradation of red cercosporin was accompanied by a shift in the color of the growth medium to brown and then green. The disappearance of cercosporin was accompanied by the appearance of a transient green product, designated xanosporic acid. Xanosporic acid and its more stable lactone derivative, xanosporolactone, are nontoxic to cercosporin-sensitive fungi and to plant tissue and are labile in the presence of light. Detailed spectroscopic analysis (to be reported in a separate publication) of xanosporolactone revealed that cercosporin loses one methoxyl group and gains one oxygen atom in the bacterial conversion. The resulting chromophore (4,9-dihydroxy-3-oxaperlylen-10H-10-one) has never been reported before but is biosynthetically plausible via oxygen insertion by a cytochrome P-450 enzyme.

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