Gene cluster conservation identifies melanin and perylenequinone biosynthesis pathways in multiple plant pathogenic fungi

Malaika K. Ebert, Rebecca E. Spanner, Ronnie de Jonge*, David J. Smith, Jason Holthusen, Gary A. Secor, Bart P.H.J. Thomma, Melvin D. Bolton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Perylenequinones are a family of structurally related polyketide fungal toxins with nearly universal toxicity. These photosensitizing compounds absorb light energy which enables them to generate reactive oxygen species that damage host cells. This potent mechanism serves as an effective weapon for plant pathogens in disease or niche establishment. The sugar beet pathogen Cercospora beticola secretes the perylenequinone cercosporin during infection. We have shown recently that the cercosporin toxin biosynthesis (CTB) gene cluster is present in several other phytopathogenic fungi, prompting the search for biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) of structurally similar perylenequinones in other fungi. Here, we report the identification of the elsinochrome and phleichrome BGCs of Elsinoë fawcettii and Cladosporium phlei, respectively, based on gene cluster conservation with the CTB and hypocrellin BGCs. Furthermore, we show that previously reported BGCs for elsinochrome and phleichrome are involved in melanin production. Phylogenetic analysis of the corresponding melanin polyketide synthases (PKSs) and alignment of melanin BGCs revealed high conservation between the established and newly identified C. beticola, E. fawcettii and C. phlei melanin BGCs. Mutagenesis of the identified perylenequinone and melanin PKSs in C. beticola and E. fawcettii coupled with mass spectrometric metabolite analyses confirmed their roles in toxin and melanin production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-927
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Volume21
Issue number3
Early online date12 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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