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Planta Med. 2006 Oct;72(12):1117-20. Epub 2006 Aug 10.

Post-genome research on the biosynthesis of ergot alkaloids.

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  • 1Pharmazeutische Biologie, Pharmazeutisches Institut, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Genome sequencing provides new opportunities and challenges for identifying genes for the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. A putative biosynthetic gene cluster of fumigaclavine C, an ergot alkaloid of the clavine type, was identified in the genome sequence of ASPERGILLUS FUMIGATUS by a bioinformatic approach. This cluster spans 22 kb of genomic DNA and comprises at least 11 open reading frames (ORFs). Seven of them are orthologous to genes from the biosynthetic gene cluster of ergot alkaloids in CLAVICEPS PURPUREA. Experimental evidence of the identified cluster was provided by heterologous expression and biochemical characterization of two ORFs, FgaPT1 and FgaPT2, in the cluster of A. FUMIGATUS, which show remarkable similarities to dimethylallyltryptophan synthase from C. PURPUREA and function as prenyltransferases. FgaPT2 converts L-tryptophan to dimethylallyltryptophan and thereby catalyzes the first step of ergot alkaloid biosynthesis, whilst FgaPT1 catalyzes the last step of the fumigaclavine C biosynthesis, i. e., the prenylation of fumigaclavine A at C-2 position of the indole nucleus. In addition to information obtained from the gene cluster of ergot alkaloids from C. PURPUREA, the identification of the biosynthetic gene cluster of fumigaclavine C in A. FUMIGATUS opens an alternative way to study the biosynthesis of ergot alkaloids in fungi.

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