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Ergot Alkaloids Produced by Endophytic Fungi of the Genus Epichloë
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Toxins 2015, 7(4), 1273-1302; doi:10.3390/toxins7041273

Genetics, Genomics and Evolution of Ergot Alkaloid Diversity

Forage Improvement Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK 73401, USA
Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
Computer Science Department, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
Advanced Genetic Technologies Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Richard A. Manderville
Received: 6 March 2015 / Revised: 2 April 2015 / Accepted: 8 April 2015 / Published: 14 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ergot Alkaloids: Chemistry, Biology and Toxicology)
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The ergot alkaloid biosynthesis system has become an excellent model to study evolutionary diversification of specialized (secondary) metabolites. This is a very diverse class of alkaloids with various neurotropic activities, produced by fungi in several orders of the phylum Ascomycota, including plant pathogens and protective plant symbionts in the family Clavicipitaceae. Results of comparative genomics and phylogenomic analyses reveal multiple examples of three evolutionary processes that have generated ergot-alkaloid diversity: gene gains, gene losses, and gene sequence changes that have led to altered substrates or product specificities of the enzymes that they encode (neofunctionalization). The chromosome ends appear to be particularly effective engines for gene gains, losses and rearrangements, but not necessarily for neofunctionalization. Changes in gene expression could lead to accumulation of various pathway intermediates and affect levels of different ergot alkaloids. Genetic alterations associated with interspecific hybrids of Epichloë species suggest that such variation is also selectively favored. The huge structural diversity of ergot alkaloids probably represents adaptations to a wide variety of ecological situations by affecting the biological spectra and mechanisms of defense against herbivores, as evidenced by the diverse pharmacological effects of ergot alkaloids used in medicine. View Full-Text
Keywords: Claviceps; Epichloë; Periglandula; Clavicipitaceae; gene clusters; chanoclavine; ergopeptine; subterminal; natural products; secondary metabolism Claviceps; Epichloë; Periglandula; Clavicipitaceae; gene clusters; chanoclavine; ergopeptine; subterminal; natural products; secondary metabolism

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Young, C.A.; Schardl, C.L.; Panaccione, D.G.; Florea, S.; Takach, J.E.; Charlton, N.D.; Moore, N.; Webb, J.S.; Jaromczyk, J. Genetics, Genomics and Evolution of Ergot Alkaloid Diversity. Toxins 2015, 7, 1273-1302.

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